Warning: Watching Reality TV Can Be Hazardous to Your Skin

woman watching television

Although many people find watching reality TV shows quite entertaining, a recent study demonstrates that college students who watch reality TV shows are at least twice as likely to use tanning beds or seek an outdoor tan than non-viewing students.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that watching reality TV was linked to both indoor and outdoor tanning based on surveys of 576 college students. However, the researchers didn’t ask exactly what shows were watched, therefore we can’t link specific shows to tanning.  The findings are troubling because through many years of research, it is clear that excessive ultraviolet radiation through sun exposure and tanning beds is a well-known risk factor for skin cancer, including the most deadly type called malignant melanoma.

Unfortunately, media personalities who appear tan and also the discussion of tanning on reality shows sends a message that being tan is cool, desirable, and healthy. However, as a dermatologist, I know the true reality: More and more young women (under 35) come into the office with skin cancer that leads to, in the best case scenario, a surgical scar. The worst case scenario is a young patient with malignant melanoma fighting for their life.

Reality TV is often chockfull of behaviors that are not necessarily healthy or productive and sends powerful messages to those who watch. Although it makes for good viewing, many are not beneficial behaviors to emulate. The bottom line is to take what you see on reality shows with a healthy dose of common sense.