This week, Texas’s Baylor College researcher Dr. Jay Yoo, PhD, presented results from his study, entitled, “Perceived Negative Health Effect of Tanning: The Interface Between Tanning Attitudes and Behaviors,” which was published in the January 2014 edition of the Clothing and Textile Research Journal, at the annual Family and Consumer Sciences Conference of Texas.
Dr. Yoo is an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. His research is focused on appearance-related behaviors and its implication to an individual’s health and social well-being. In the study, Dr. Yoo and his collaborators focused on the body-tanning behaviors of 333 college students to assess the relationship between the perceived negative health effect of tanning (PNHET) and body-tanning attitudes and behaviors.
The study utilized an on-line survey method that examined participant’s attitudes and behaviors to answer the following research questions:
- What body-tanning attitudes are the best predictors of each tanning behavior, such as: outdoor tanning vs. indoor tanning vs. sunless tanning product use?
- Do college students’ tanning attitudes predict their tanning behaviors?
- Does PNHET influence tanning attitudes and behaviors?
- If we control for the possible effect of PNHET, are tanning attitudes still able to predict a significant amount of the variance in tanning behaviors?
The survey results showed that for this sample of college students:
- Specific body-tanning attitudes do influence the methods of body-tanning behaviors.
- Pleasurable activity was found to be a significant attitude influencing indoor and outdoor tanning behaviors
- College students seek tanning beds and tanning products, particularly when physical attractiveness is concerned.
- Healthy behavioral attitudes exist for outdoor tanning.
In a University press release about these results he presented at the conference, Dr. Yoo stated, “What we’ve learned is that for some individuals, a significant motivation can be that tanning is a pleasurable and social activity. Now for those who tan solely for appearance, using tanning products is a good alternative to promote. But for those who do it for pleasure, a product is not going to work. For them, tanning is a lifestyle. If I appear tan, it causes people to think, ‘Hey, you have money and time for relaxing and enjoying yourself.'”
Dr. Yoo, continued, “Many people want a ‘natural’ look and think tanning is the way to go about it — even if they know the risks. If they think, ‘People like this (glamorous and wealthy) are doing it — or if they think outdoor tanning and tanning beds are pleasurable or sociable — they’ll got out and tan that way instead of applying a product. “They’ll say, ‘I’ll worry about skin cancer tomorrow. We need to find a way of developing intervention strategies, and much depends on whether we idealize tan skin — or whether we stigmatize it.”
According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with cases of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. The important work that Dr. Yoo is conducting will help researchers and healthcare providers understand what motivates individuals to participate in high risk behaviors, such as tanning, and what interventions will be most successful at reducing this unnecessary sun exposure, and encourage safe sun practices.