What Type of Tanner Are You?

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Updated: 12/06/2012 2:23 pm

Dec. 17, 2007 -- What type of tanner are you? How you use indoor tanning beds -- and how often -- may reveal a lot about your skin cancer risks.

A new study suggests that people who use indoor tanning beds fall into four main types ranging from special event tanners to regular tanners, and each type may face different skin cancer risks.

The results show that a "one size fits all" approach to skin cancer prevention messages doesn't apply to indoor tanners, and doctors should tailor their skin cancer prevention efforts to the indoor tanning habits of their patients.

Researchers say despite warnings, the popularity of indoor tanning beds has increased dramatically in recent years. Nearly 2 million Americans use tanning beds each day, and the number of individual users has doubled to nearly 30 million in the last decade.

Numerous studies have linked indoor tanning to a higher risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Indoor Tanning Types

In the study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, researcher Joel Hillhouse, PhD, of East Tennessee State University, and colleagues surveyed 168 young women who used indoor tanning beds about their tanning habits.

Four main indoor tanning types emerged:

  • Event tanners (54%): This group tanned the least (about 12 times per year). They used indoor tanning beds numerous times over a short period before a special event and then went for long periods of time without tanning. They also reported the least positive attitudes related to indoor tanning.
  • Regular, year-round tanners (12%): This group used indoor tanning at least weekly or biweekly (averaging more than 70 times per year) and had more positive attitudes toward tanning than event tanners. These tanners started tanning at a younger age compared with the other groups. The researchers called this the "most at-risk group."
  • Spontaneous or mood tanners (6%): These tanners weren't regular tanners but used indoor tanning on the spur of the moment or inspired by their moods.
  • Mixed tanners (29%): This group included tanners who not only tan regularly during certain seasons but also will event tan during the off season (an average of more than 25 times a year).

Researchers say that by identifying indoor tanners by type, doctors can be more effective in tailoring their skin cancer prevention strategies. For example, regular year-round tanners may need to be screened for seasonal affective disorder or depression.

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