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Skin Cancer Risk, Indoor Tanning, And Maternal Influence

teen tanning bedNot all maternal influence on daughter behavior is good. Take for example the influence of the unhealthy use of indoor tanning beds as presented in a recent Archives of Dermatology article (full reference below) which “investigated whether indoor tanning with one’s mother the first time would influence frequency of tanning later in life and whether it was associated with age of initiation.”

Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D., of East Tennessee State University-Johnson City and colleagues published a study the May 2010 issue of the Archives of Dermatology which looked at which health-based intervention worked best in reducing skin cancer risks. They found that “emphasizing the appearance-damaging effects of UV light, both indoor and outdoor, to young patients who are tanning is important no matter what their pathological tanning behavior status.”

For this study, Hillhouse and colleagues randomly selected a total of 800 female students who were then sent a screening questionnaire on their indoor tanning history. Those who reported ever indoor tanning (n = 252) were invited to participate in the study and offered an incentive ($5). A total of 227 (mean age, 21.33 years; age range, 18-30 years) agreed, signed informed consent documents, and completed assessments.

One of the questions asked who accompanied the participant the first time they indoor tanned (i.e. tanned alone, with friend, with mother, or other).

Of the 227 female participants, 70 were non-tanners, 113 were moderate tanners, and 44 were heavy tanners.

Nearly twice as many participants experienced indoor tanning for the first time with their mother (n = 88) than went alone (n = 45). First-time tanning with their mother was also higher than with a friend (n = 72) or with someone other than their friend or mother (n = 22). The prevalence of current indoor tanning use among the 88 participants who went with their mother was nearly 81 percent, with 31.9 percent reporting heavy tanning.

Adjusting for age and skin type, the researchers found that the participants who reported tanning with their mother during their initial experience were nearly five times more likely to be heavy current tanners than those who initiated tanning alone or with someone other than their mother.

Let’s get out of the tanning beds and go walking or cycling or swimming or dancing or bowling together. Mothers (and aunts): let’s influence our daughters (and nieces) to be more active.


Mary Kate Baker, MPH; Joel James Hillhouse, PhD; Xuefeng Liu, PhD. “The Effect of Initial Indoor Tanning With Mother on Current Tanning Patterns.” Arch Dermatol. 2010;146(12):1427-1428. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.349.

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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One Response to “Skin Cancer Risk, Indoor Tanning, And Maternal Influence”

  1. Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist says:

    The importance of this study is huge. It brings to conscious level this otherwise seemingly innocuous act of a mom dropping off her daughter for an appointment. With tanning, it’s no different than a mother giving her daughter her first cigarette. We know that would be wrong and tanning is too. Parents pass many things on to their children for better or for worse and tanning is of course for the worse. I see many beautiful young women in my dermatology practice whose skin will never recover from their early tanning days. Many of them have had melanoma in their early adult hood when they themselves have young children. It’s tragic and the awareness of this study will undoubtedly intercede for some.

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