Study finds link between sunbed use and unhealthy weight loss in US teenagers

Light freckled skinThe skin cancer risk of using sunbeds is well-known, but a recent study of American high school students has found an alarming link between sunbed use and another harmful beauty practice – drastic weight-loss methods.

The study, carried out on a sample of 27,000 teenagers throughout America, found that girls who used indoor sunbeds were nearly 20% more likely to go without food, 40% more likely to take laxatives or vomit after eating, and more than twice as likely to take weight-loss products.

And the figures were even higher among sunbed-using boys.

They were more than twice as likely to go without food, seven times more likely to take laxatives or vomit, and four times more likely to use weight-loss products than boys who don’t indoor tan.

The study was carried out by researchers from New York University School of Medicine, and published in the April issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Rather than one unhealthy behaviour leading to the other, researchers suggested that the correlation was probably down to a generally poor self-image among the teenagers.

“Poor body image is associated with both indoor tanning behavior and eating disorder behavior,” wrote David Schwebel of the University Of Alabama in an accompanying editorial.

The authors of the study, Stephen Amrock and Michael Weitzman, hope it can be used by doctors to address the major skin cancer risk in teenagers who use indoor sunbeds, and also identify teenagers at risk of unhealthy weight-loss regimes:

“Greater attention to these issues by pediatricians may help reduce the number of adolescents risking potentially deadly consequences”.