Center for Geographic Analysis Harvard University
Additional navigation

You are here

Spatial Distribution of Businesses Offering UV Tanning Across 7 U.S. Metro Areas

Presentation at the 38th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine

San Diego, CA

March 30, 2017

Introduction: Societal appearance ideals drive consumer demand for UV indoor tanning, which now generates approximately $3 billion in revenue annually in the US. The rapid growth and infiltration of UV tanning into other industries (e.g., gyms) has been followed by a corresponding rise in melanoma. While proximity to businesses offering UV tanning is likely an important predictor of use by consumers, little is known about their geographic distribution. Methods: In fall 2014 and 2015, we gathered phone survey data on whether businesses offered UV tanning from 21,387 businesses in 7 major U.S. metro areas (Boston, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, LA, Dallas, Miami). We then linked business survey data to block group characteristics (sociodemographics, land use, presence of businesses of all categories) to build multivariable logistic regression models to predict probability of businesses offering UV tanning. We generated predictive maps of the spatial distribution of these businesses. Results: UV indoor tanning services were reported in the highest prevalence by tanning salons (90.2%), health clubs (17.3%), gyms (10.8%), and laser-treatment and tattoo-removal businesses (both 8.0%). The probability of UV tanning services in a block group was positively associated with percent of population of white race/ethnicity (p<0.01) and higher density of businesses (p<0.05) and negatively associated with percent of population with college degree (p<0.05). Sunbelt metro areas (Miami, Dallas, LA) had lower prevalence of businesses offering UV tanning compared to northern areas (p<0.01 for all 3 metros). Discussion: We observed important variability in spatial distribution of UV tanning. Presence of these noxious services may both normalize UV tanning as a societally valued behavior and increase use by nearby residents. Societal idealization of tanned skin, particularly in populations of white race/ethnicity with lower education in northern cities, fuels demand for UV indoor tanning, putting consumers at elevated risk for melanoma.

Publication Date  March, 2017
Author(s)  S. Bryn Austin, Longxiang Li, Allegra R. Gordon, Jeffrey Blossom, Alan Geller, Caterina Stamoulis