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Motivations Among Sexual Minority Men for Starting and Stopping Indoor Tanning


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Motivations Among Sexual Minority Men for Starting and Stopping Indoor Tanning
Pimentel MA1, Admassu N.1,2,Halley M.3, Torres J.1, Pascua N.1, Katz KA4, Linos E.1

1Program for Clinical Research, Department of Dermatology, UCSF, 2UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program,

3Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, 4Department of Dermatology, Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco


To understand motivations for starting and stopping indoor tanning among sexual minority men (SMM).


SMM, defined as homosexual or bisexual, are more likely than heterosexual men to report indoor tanning, and report nearly double the rates of skin cancer compared to heterosexual men.1,2,3

Recent studies suggest that affect regulation and appearance motivate SMM to tan,4 but no studies have examined what motivates SMM to stop indoor tanning.


Ten, two-hour focus groups, moderated by two researchers in a semi-structured interview format, were conducted at the UCSF Mt. Zion campus.

Inclusion criteria:
≥18 years old
Self-identified as SMM
A history of using an indoor tanning bed at least once
Participants were recruited from online and print advertisements.
Participants were asked about their motivations and attitudes towards tanning bed use.
Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. De-identified transcripts were coded, and analyzed for themes by three independent researchers.5
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at UCSF. The authors have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.


Motivations for starting indoor tanning by SMM are consistent with a prior study that identified motivations of appearance, sociocultural pressures, and mood regulation.4

These motivations are similar to reasons for indoor tanning reported by young women.6

Limitations of our study include that it was a sample from a single city.
Future research is needed to develop, implement, and evaluate skin cancer prevention messages targeted to SMM, with the goal of reducing indoor tanning and skin cancer among SMM. 


These data can inform the development of behavioral change campaigns, or messaging in clinical settings, aimed at curbing tanning bed use among sexual minority men.  


1. Mansh M, Katz KA, Linos E, Chren MM, Arron S. Association of Skin Cancer and Indoor Tanning in Sexual Minority Men and Women. JAMA Dermatology. 2015;151(12):1308-1309.

2. Blashill AJ, Safren SA. Skin Cancer Risk Behaviors Among US Men: The Role of Sexual Orientation. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(9):1640–1641.

3. Blashill AJ. Indoor tanning and skin cancer risk among diverse US youth: Results from a national sample. JAMA Dermatology. 2017;153(3):344-345.

4. Blashill AJ, Rooney BM, Wells KJ. An integrated model of skin cancer risk in sexual minority males. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2017;41(1):99-108.

5. Miles M, Huberman A, Saldana J. Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. 3rd ed: Sage Publications, Inc; 2014.

6. Rodgers RF, Wilking C, Gottlieb M, et al. A qualitative study of the decision to engage in tanning behaviors among female college students. European Review of Applied Psychology. 2016;66(1):1-8.

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