The studies, both published in the September issue of the Archives of Dermatology, were carried out by scientists at the American Cancer Society and the University of Massachusetts Medical School and involved studying the behaviour of two groups of females to discover what impact the use of self tanning products had on their sunbathing behaviour.
The first study was initially conducted in 2004 by the American Cancer Society. Led by Vilma Cokkinides it surveyed a total of 1,600 adolescents age 11 to 18 to pinpoint use of self tanning products.
Of the individuals surveyed, 10.8 percent reported using sunless tanning products in the past year, the vast majority of whom were towards the older end of the age spectrum and female.
Self tanning associated with risky indoor tanning
The survey findings reportedly underlined the fact that the use of these self-tanning products was directly correlated with risky indoor tanning behaviour or else having previously had bad sunburn from UV exposure.
The report concluded that: “adolescents, therefore, must be educated about these products and the importance of avoiding indoor tanning and practicing sun-protective behaviour”.
The other article was published in the journal by Sherry Pagoto from the University of Massuchusetts Medical School and highlighted a recent study that recruited 250 female sunbathers to participate in a cancer prevention study.
The study group was divided into an intervention group of 125 women who received information about cancer prevention and sunless tanning, while the other control group received free cosmetics samples not related to sun care.
The individuals that received the information about sun safety were given written and verbal instructions on the use of sunless tanning products, which involved stressing the benefits created by avoiding the risk of UV exposure.
Education key to safe tanning
Participants had a UV-filtered photograph taken, to illustrate the current level of sun damage, alongside free samples of sunless tanning products and sunscreens.
After two months, participants who had received the advice on sunless tanning products reported less sunburn, and greater protective behaviour than the control group.
After one year, the intervention group was reported was still reported to be sunbathing less, on average, and sunless tanning products continued to be used more frequently than in the control group.
"Encouraging sunbathers to switch to sunless tanning could have an important health impact, but sunless tanning has been considered a cosmetic more so than a health care tool," the authors of the University of Massachusetts Medical School study wrote.
"These findings have implications for public health and clinical efforts to prevent skin cancer. Promoting sunless tanning to sunbathers in the context of a skin cancer prevention public health message may be helpful in reducing sunbathing and sunburns and in promoting the use of protective clothing.”
The authors concluded that future research should be carried out to determine how to further convince tanners to switch to sunless tanning.