Does artificial UV use prior to spring break protect students from sunburns during spring break?

Authors

  • Leslie K. Dennis,

    Corresponding author
    1. College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
    • Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
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  • John B. Lowe

    1. College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
    2. School of Health and Sports Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, QLD, Australia
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  • Conflicts of interest:

    None declared.

Correspondence:

Dr Leslie K. Dennis, PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, P.O. Box 245211, A230, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724-5211, USA.

Tel: 520-626-6408

Fax: 520-626-2767

e-mail: ldennis@email.arizona.edu

Summary

Background

Dark-skinned individuals are less likely than light-skinned individuals to become sunburned or develop skin cancer. Some have extrapolated this relationship and surmised that developing and maintaining a tan will reduce the risk of sunburns and melanoma. In order to examine whether this strategy indeed protects against sunburns, we surveyed college students about both their tanning habits prior to spring break and their spring break activities.

Methods

Sorority and fraternity students were recruited after spring break. Analyses examined associations between potential risk factors and the development of one or more sunburns during spring break.

Results

As expected, the risk of obtaining a sunburn increased with: time spent in the sun during spring break; light complexion, as assessed by various sun-sensitivity factors; and lack of sunscreen use. We also found that tanning using an artificial UV source during the 10 weeks prior to spring break was not associated with reduced risk of sunburns during spring-break, but rather with a marginal increase in this risk.

Conclusions

These data provide evidence that maintaining a tan may not provide protection from sunburns. Public health messages need to address this misconception, stating clearly that a tan does not protect against or reduce the chances of developing a sunburn.

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