The presence of tanning beds in gyms may strengthen the misinformed notion that tanning is healthy, according to a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology.

The use of tanning beds and physical activity have both been identified as risk factors for malignant melanoma. With an increasing number of gyms offering tanning beds, the characteristics and habits of tanners who use gym tanning beds should be investigated further.

For this analysis, researchers evaluated data from 636 participants who had tanned indoors at least once. Investigators assessed whether participants tanned in a tanning bed or booth anywhere other than a tanning salon and the proportion of those who have ever tanned or primarily tan in gyms, and compared demographics, physical activity, indoor tanning frequency, and tanning dependence information with those who had never tanned in a gym.

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Results showed that 24.2% (154) of study participants had tanned in the gym at least once, and 28.6% (44) reported tanning primarily at a gym. Factors that were significantly associated with gym tanners compared with other tanners were younger age (P <.001) and more physical activity (P <.001), but did not differ by gender.

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People who reported tanning at the gym were significantly likely to have more tanning visits (P =.01) and were more likely to have tanning dependence (P =.002) compared with other tanners. Physical activity was also significantly associated with an increased frequency of tanning (P =.003).

Overall, nearly 25% of tanners have tanned in gyms and tan 67% more frequently compared with other tanners. The authors concluded that “skin cancer prevention efforts targeting gyms and active adults in general are needed.”


Pagoto SL, Nahar VK, Frisard C, et al. A comparison of tanning habits among gym tanners and other tanners [published online July 18, 2018]. JAMA Dermatol. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.1779