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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

East Tennessee Study Identifies Increased Risk for Indoor Tanning among Rural Youth

Faculty in the ETSU College of Public Health have published an article in Preventive Medicine Reports identifying young women living in “non-metropolitan” (i.e. rural) areas as being almost twice as likely to engage in indoor tanning as their urban counterparts.

[Photo:  Dr. Megan Quinn]

Youth who engage in indoor tanning are at a significantly increased risk of developing melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer. According to the article,  indoor tanning  “ . . . before the age of 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, with each additional session per year adding another 1.8 percent risk.  . .”   Despite this risk, indoor tanning remains a popular practice among youth, especially young women. According to the study, in 2011, 16 percent (one out of every six) of teenage girls in the United States engaged in indoor tanning. The ETSU Skin Cancer Prevention Lab, under the direction of Dr. Joel Hillhouse, has been at the forefront of researching efforts to understand why young women continue to engage in this risky behavior, and to develop effective interventions to reduce its risk.

The current article “Prevalence and Correlates of Indoor Tanning and Sunless Tanning Product Use Among Female Teens in the United States”  looks at the socio-demographic factors that are associated with indoor tanning and with sunless tanning products. Previous studies have identified age and race, as factors associated with indoor tanning, but this article is one of the first to identify that young women living in  rural  areas are almost twice as likely to engage in indoor tanning as “metropolitan” women.  The article concludes “Since most {indoor tanning} research and prevention interventions have focused on urban and sub-urban populations, there is a need for increased research in rural populations of teens and young adults.”

Dr. Megan Quinn, in the department of biostatistics and epidemiology was the lead author on the paper, joined by Drs. Arsham Alamian, Joel Hillhouse,  and Katie Baker, (all faculty in the College of Public Health), Dr. Colleen Scott (a recent doctoral graduate from the college) and Dr. Rob Turrisi, a long-time collaborator from Pennsylvania State University.

ETSU has a long-standing commitment to addressing the needs of people living in central Appalachia, and has been recognized for its commitment to improving rural health, in general.    This study reinforces the importance of indoor tanning as a health risk among rural youth, especially young women.