Turns out, tanning salons are targeting gay men. But honestly, we’re not surprised.
A new study by researchers at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Melanoma Research Foundation, has found that gayborhoods and neighborhoods with high amounts of gay/bi men are twice as likely to have indoor tanning salons.
After looking at this data, researchers believe that the tanning industry is specifically targeting gay and bisexual men as they are six times more likely to frequent such businesses.
“If tanning facilities are available right next to your home, you’re probably more likely to use them,” said Eleni Linos, MD, MPH, professor of dermatology, who sees patients at Stanford Health Care’s dermatology clinic at Hoover Pavilion.
In order to get this data, researchers used census data and paired it with business locations in neighborhoods of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest numbers of LGBTQ residents. But how did they know which specific homes belonged to gay and bi men? The researchers made an educated guess by labeling self-reported male-male households as an indication of “sexual minority men” in each neighborhood.
The results found that neighborhoods that held at least 10% of male-male households were twice as likely to include an indoor tanning salon. This was true even for neighborhoods with varying income and racial profiles.
But Is This Healthy?
But after finding out this information, the Stanford researchers expressed concern for the health risks presented by these facts. Namely, that sexual minority men are twice as likely to suffer from skin cancer.
“Our concern is whether the tanning industry is targeting high-risk communities, similar to how the tobacco industry has done in the past, marketing to vulnerable groups,” wrote Linos.
“Indoor tanning is a class 1 carcinogen,” Linos added. “I don’t think we can be naïve and think of this as just another business. There’s no benefit to indoor tanning. Because we are already seeing very high rates of skin cancer in this community, we need to be particularly vigilant about industry influence.”
Linos and her team are now planning to work along with Stanford’s PRIDE Study, a long-term study of sexual and gender minority health, to look at the marketing and advertising efforts of the tanning industry. Despite whatever the results of that data will be, Linos warns of the dangers that come with tanning.
“Your built environment has a tremendous influence on your health in both positive and negative ways,” Linos said. “As public health researchers and advocates, we are committed to improving people’s health. By supporting healthier neighborhoods, we have the potential to benefit the health of an entire community.”