The harms of sun overexposure have been clearly documented over the years, but millions of Americans still choose to sunbathe or visit the tanning salon in search of that widely coveted bronze complexion.
Although physicians have long urged patients to limit sun exposure and protect against damaging UV rays, health messages rarely take precedence over habits that are enjoyable and reinforced by cultural norms. So rather than warning against these habits, why not introduce an alternative?
Doctors at the University of Massachusetts did exactly that. They sought to challenge the practice of sunbathing right on the beach, by promoting sunless tanning products and spreading educational materials about skin cancer.
Their research, recently published in Archives of Dermatology, describes their objectives, methods and results. During a visit to the beach, they recruited 250 women to participate. They educated the participants about sunless tanning and the dangers of skin cancer.
After two months, participants reported reduced sunbathing, fewer sunburns and greater use of protective clothing. One year later, participants reported decreased sunbathing and increased sunless tanning.
Dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in tanning lotions, has been FDA approved since 1973 with no harms reported, according to Dr. Sherry Pagoto, who spoke to Reuters news regarding the study.