"We saw that indoor tanning is associated with a number of other risky behaviors, such as illegal drug use, binge drinking and smoking," said health economist and study lead author Gery Guy Jr.
The responses of nearly 26,000 students between 2009 and 2011, teenagers as young as 14, were used in the study. Researchers found that more than 13 percent of the high school students tanned indoors in 2011; more than half of those said they did so 10 or more times over the previous year.
Typically, teenagers and young adults have concerns about their image, a trait that can lead to unhealthy activities like eating disorders.
"We also found that teens who tan indoors are likely to be very concerned about their appearance," Guy added. "That sometimes leads to positive behaviors, like engaging in sports and eating healthy foods. But it also leads to unhealthy behaviors, such as steroid use or extreme weight control."
It is impossible to make teenagers throw aside their body image concerns; the media keeps them constantly fixated on how they look. However, parents can help their kids with their self-esteem and discourage them from engaging in unhealthy activities for the sake of appearances.
The study findings appear online in JAMA Dermatology.