Millions of US college students may have immediate access to indoor tanning salons, either on or nearby campus, and in many cases at no cost, according to a recent JAMA Dermatology study published online October 29.
Examining the top 125 colleges ranked by the U.S. News & World Report, the researchers found that, despite the now well-established link between ultraviolet (UV) tanning bed use and skin cancer, an astonishing 48 percent of the schools have indoor tanning facilities on or nearby campus. Not only are these facilities abundant, campuses are making it easy for students to access them: Some 14 percent of colleges allow students to pay for tanning services with campus cash cards. The tanning facilities are most prevalent (42 percent) in off-campus housing, and 96 percent of these off-campus centers are free for tenants.
People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. With tanning bed use highest among young, non-Hispanic white women, and with skin cancer rates soaring in this group, researchers warned that “the presence of indoor tanning facilities on and near college campuses may passively reinforce indoor tanning in college students, thereby facilitating behavior that will increase their risk for skin cancer both in the short-term and later in life.”
The researchers concluded that college campuses should adopt tanning-free rules, following the lead of administrations that have established tobacco-free policies.
Published on October 30, 2015