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Tanning Beds are Easily Accessible for College Students

Update Date: Oct 29, 2014 04:14 PM EDT

Tanning beds are easily accessible for college students, a new study reported. According to researchers, about half of the colleges examined in the study had indoor tanning facilities either on campus or in off-campus housing.

The researchers, headed by Sherry L. Pagoto, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, looked at 125 colleges that were named on a list generated by the U.S. News & World Report. Pagoto and her team used the Internet to uncover how accessible tanning facilities were for these college students. According to the background information provided by the researchers, tanning is a popular habit among the younger generation, particularly in non-Hispanic white women.

The researchers contacted the tanning facilities and inquired about the services offered as well as payment options, such as campus cash cards. Overall, 12 percent of the colleges had indoor tanning facilities on campus. 42.4 percent of colleges had these facilities in off-campus housing. Around 14.4 percent of the colleges permitted the use of campus cash cards to pay for the services. The majority of the services provided by tanning facilities in off-campus housing were free for tenants.

In terms of region, the team found that midwestern schools had the most indoor tanning facilities on campus at 26.9 percent. Southern schools had the highest rate of indoor tanning facilities in off-campus housing at 67.7 percent.

The study's findings are alarming. Health experts have repeatedly warned people that using tanning booths can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

"Public health efforts are needed to raise university administration and student population awareness of the harms that indoor tanning poses to young adults in order to increase demand for policy-related action," the authors wrote according to the press release. "The presence of indoor tanning facilities on and near college campuses may passively reinforce indoor tanning in college students, thereby facilitating behavior that will increase their risk for skin cancer both in the short term and later in life. In step with tobacco-free policies, tanning-free policies on college campuses may have high potential to reduce skin cancer risk in young adults."

The study was published in the journal, JAMA Dermatology.

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