Background: Indoor tanning poses a significant public health threat to young women, increasing the risk of melanoma by 75% in youth. Tanning salons are often strategically located and use promotions to maximize patronage by students. The aim of this study was: (1) to explore the presence and location of tanning salons around universities in the city of Boston; and (2) to explore tanning behaviors, knowledge and attitudes among Northeastern (NEU) students.
Methods: Tanning salons in Boston were identified and located on a map. Northeastern students who tan around campus were invited to participate in an online survey.
Results: Eighteen tanning salons were identified. The zip codes 02215 and 02115 had the greatest concentration of tanning salons and campuses including Boston University, NEU, Harvard Medical School, and the Colleges of the Fenway. Our sample includes 64 female students (91% White), mean age (SD) = 19.8 years (1.2), and mean body mass index (SD) = 22.4 (2.7). The majority started tanning at age 16 or 17, in the context of a social event (79%). On average, students tan for 1.75 hours /month, and spend $28 /month on tanning. The majority (70%) made use of the salon marketing strategies, and 9% have paid with their Husky card. Participants reported high levels of appearance reasons for tanning, such as to appear slimmer.
Discussion: These findings highlight the need to better understand tanning motivations among students as well as consider university policy approaches to regulate tanning salons around campuses.