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November 17, 2008

Not All Tanners Are Created Equal: Implications of Tanning Subtypes for Skin Cancer Prevention

Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(11):1505-1508. doi:10.1001/archderm.144.11.1505

Recently, the idea that UV risk behaviors can be characterized by subtypes defined by specific behavioral patterns has emerged in the skin cancer literature.1,2 Further support is provided by O’Riordan et al3 in this issue of the Archives. They used latent class analyses to classify visitors to a Hawaiian beach into subtypes based on their degree of skin cancer risk, sun protection practices, and tanning motivations. The findings of this latest study parallel the study by Pagoto et al2 of visitors to Lake Michigan beaches in Chicago, Illinois. In this study, 4 subtypes of beachgoers were identified, 3 of which were strikingly similar to the ones described by O’Riordan et al3: (1) low-risk sun worshippers, (2) moderate-risk sun worshippers (tan seekers), and (3) high-risk individuals who sunburn easily (“sunburners”). The largest subtype in both of these studies included individuals with a strong desire to tan despite having a skin type that is conducive to sunburning. These individuals perceive themselves as at risk for skin cancer and use sunscreen but do not seek shade or wear protective clothing. This group is of greatest concern to physicians because their motivation to tan seems to override their perceived and actual risk for skin cancer.2 Overall, more than two-thirds of individuals in both beach samples reported that they were at the beach with the intention of tanning to improve their appearance.

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