Among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the San Francisco Bay area, knowledge regarding skin cancer risk associated with indoor tanning is consistent in indoor tanners vs nonindoor tanners, with improved attractiveness being the primary reason for engaging in indoor tanning. Findings from this research letter were published in JAMA Dermatology.

Cross-sectional data from the 2017 National HIV Behavioral Surveillance survey, which included MSM who resided in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, were included in the analysis. Researchers specifically examined participants’ responses to questions about indoor tanning knowledge and practices. Frequency of, reasons for, and utility of tanning beds for obtaining a tan and base tan were explored in the survey. Responses from indoor tanners were compared with those of nonindoor tanners.

A total of 508 participants were included in the analysis (median age, 38.5 years [range, 19-78 years]). Approximately 7.5% (n=37) of the cohort reported the use of indoor tanning beds in the past 12 months (95% CI, 5.2%-9.8%). There was no difference between indoor tanners and nonindoor tanners in terms of knowledge regarding skin cancer risks associated with tanning beds.

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Binge drinking was associated with indoor tanning. Indoor tanners reported a greater mean number of incidences when they consumed ≥5 alcoholic beverages in a 2-hour span of time compared with respondents who did not tan indoors (5.3 vs 2.4, respectively; P =.01).

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Reasons for obtaining an indoor tan included improved attractiveness, elevated mood, relaxation, appearing slimmer, and social reinforcement. More than half (56.8%) of indoor tanners endorsed the misconception that a base tan offered protection for the skin during a sunny vacation.

Limitations of the study included the small sample size as well as the self-reported nature of the behavioral data.

“Further studies of indoor tanning among MSM are needed to develop tailored interventions to curb indoor tanning behaviors and skin cancer prevalence among this high-risk population,” the researchers wrote.

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Morrison L, Raymond HF, Katz KA, et al. Knowledge, motivations, and practices regarding indoor tanning among men who have sex with men in the San Francisco Bay area [published online May 15, 2019]. JAMA Dermatol. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.0121