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Reality TV viewers more likely to tan: study

Turn on the TV and you'll inevitably stumble upon a reality show. For many, reality TV is seen as a guilty pleasure or escape from the daily grind.

A new study, however, suggests there may be an interesting link between viewing preferences and a risky lifestyle habit.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that college students who view beauty-related reality TV shows were more likely to tan at indoor tanning salons or outdoors.

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Researchers questioned 576 college students about their reality TV viewing habits and tanning activities. They found that females who watched beauty-related reality TV were much more likely than their peers to tan.

The study doesn't prove causality. That means people aren't necessarily driven to tan because of the images on beauty reality TV shows. People who are drawn to those shows may simply be more likely to tan than their peers.

Researchers didn't record the names of the reality TV shows watched by students. But there are plenty of shows out there that put the focus squarely on appearance, such as America's Next Top Model.

But the fact this segment of the population does seem drawn to tanning is cause for concern, according to the study authors. Scientists have definitively proven that indoor tanning is linked to an increased risk of skin cancer. Although getting sun outdoors is considered safe in small doses, too much sun is also known to increase the risk of skin cancer.

And even if TV shows themselves aren't causing people to go out and tan, the study makes it clear that many of them aren't necessarily promoting healthy lifestyles, according to a Reuters report on the study.

"TV shows might not realize the message they're (promoting) by having all of these attractive, tanned people," study co-author Joshua Fogel, a health policy researcher at Brooklyn College, told Reuters.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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