Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 185, Issue 4, pp 887–893 | Cite as

Risky sun tanning behaviours amongst Irish University students: a quantitative analysis

  • C. Flannery
  • L.-A. Burke
  • L. Grainger
  • P. Williams
  • H. Gage
Original Article



Despite Ireland’s temperate maritime climate, it has the third highest rate of malignant melanoma in the European Union, indicating the need to recognise tanning practices as a risky behaviour, especially amongst those most at risk (the younger population).


To explore the factors associated with deliberate sun tanning amongst university students in Cork, Ireland.


Self-reported sun exposure, attitudes to tanning and sun protection practices were investigated using an online questionnaire in April 2010.


There were 833 responses (8.33 %), mean age 22 years, 75 % female. Reporting deliberate tanning in the previous summer (n = 389, 46.7 %) was positively correlated (r = 0.622, p < 0.001) with stating an intention to tan next summer (n = 532, 63.9 %). Women and respondents with darker (vs. fairer) complexion were more likely to engage in deliberate tanning (p < 0.001). Deliberate tanning was associated with reporting enjoying tanning (p < 0.001), with reporting peer pressure into tanning (p = 0.039), and (marginally) with thinking it is worth getting burnt to get a tan (p = 0.068). Younger students were significantly more likely to report these attitudes; being a current smoker was associated with reporting peer pressure and that burning is worth a tan, indicating a level of risk-taking. Respondents reported (average) three sources of information on sun risks.


Tanning is a form of strongly motivated risk-taking as much in a sun-limited country like Ireland as in hotter sun-rich climates. Risk communication strategies on sun exposure should be developed that target young people and improve their risk awareness.


Risky behaviour Sun exposure Skin cancer Tanning University students Ireland 



The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None declared by any author.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Flannery
    • 1
  • L.-A. Burke
    • 2
  • L. Grainger
    • 3
  • P. Williams
    • 3
    • 4
  • H. Gage
    • 3
  1. 1.Health Behavioural Change Research GroupNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  3. 3.School of EconomicsUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  4. 4.Department of MathematicsUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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