Background & Objective: Indoor tanning by adults under 35 years of age increases the risk of developing melanoma 59% to 75%. Cost is a major barrier limiting young adults from purchasing indoor tanning services. Our recent study by Boyers et al determined that 18 of 96 major universities, all in the eastern and southern United States, had university-sponsored debit cards with indoor tanning affiliations. These debit cards, which conveniently link with student identification (ID) cards, help with student living expenses and are often loaded with money by parents. By creating agreements with indoor tanning salon vendors, universities are endorsing a World Health Organization class I carcinogen. To expand the results of our previous study, we broadened our search to further assess universities in the western United States as well as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Methods: Using www.collegeboard.edu, we identified the 4 largest residential colleges in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Additionally, we investigated the top international universities, utilizing www.topuniversities.com. Internet searches, phone calls, and email correspondence were used to determine if an institution had a student ID-linked debit card. Universities with affiliations to bank debit cards and cards that could only be used on campus were excluded.
Results: In the western United States, indoor tanning merchants were affiliated with University of Arizona, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: Prescott Campus, and the University of Denver student debit cards. Of the original 18 schools with affiliations according to the Boyers et al study, 2 universities no longer have agreements and 5 created agreements with additional tanning salons.
Of 45 universities examined in our international search, no debit cards were discovered for off-campus purchases. Therefore, the concerning issue of university associations with tanning salons appears to be solely a domestic problem.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the formation of financial agreements between universities and tanning salons is an ever-present and growing problem in the United States. Since Boyers et al, we have engaged in outreach efforts with alumni, faculty, administration, and local university cancer centers to terminate university ties with tanning salon vendors. Further advocacy efforts are critical to combat this dangerous association, reduce the frequency of skin cancer, and protect the health of young adults.