SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — As the scientific evidence mounts, more federal agencies and state governments are taking action to educate and protect Americans against the serious risks of indoor tanning. Recent and pending legislation in numerous states restricting access to indoor tanning, along with the federal 10 percent indoor tanning tax that goes into effect on July 1, are important steps in keeping Americans safe from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the potential for future skin cancers. Indoor tanning is associated with a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma is increasing faster in young women (15-29 years old) than in young men in the same age group – and a major difference in behavior is that women are more likely to use indoor tanning beds.
“These national and state-wide efforts send a clear message to Americans, especially young people, that tanning is not safe and that a tan is not a sign of good health,” said dermatologist William D. James, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). “Indoor tanning is an unhealthy activity and UV radiation exposure increases one’s risk of skin cancer.”
More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Since 2002, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has stated that UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, is a known human carcinogen. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, re-categorized indoor tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans, placing indoor tanning in the highest risk category with tobacco smoke. Yet, nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the United States annually. Of these, 2.3 million are teens.
Despite the call from the World Health Organization (WHO) to prohibit minors from indoor tanning because of the danger of skin cancer, currently only 32 states restrict access to indoor tanning beds by minors. Texas has the most restrictive state law, prohibiting those under 16.5 from using tanning beds. For minors in Georgia, a new law goes into effect on July 1 that prohibits those under the age of 14 from using indoor tanning facilities and requires those between the ages of 14 and 18 to have in-person parental consent before use.
“People need to be aware that using a tanning bed is dangerous,” said dermatologist Alexander S. Gross, MD, FAAD, attending physician at Emory University and the Medical College of Georgia, and incoming chair of the Georgia Composite Medical Board, who worked with the AADA to support passage of this law. “Now, Georgia state law requires indoor tanning bed operators to inform their clients, potential clients and parents about the dangers of tanning, and also prevents children under the age of 14 from using indoor tanning beds, which we hope will deter our young people from future indoor tanning use.”
In Massachusetts, a bill awaiting approval by the State House of Representatives would prohibit the use of indoor tanning devices for all minors under the age of 16 and would require in-person parental consent for those ages 16 and 17. If passed in the House and signed by Governor Deval Patrick, the legislation would go into effect by the end of summer.
“The AADA urges the state of Massachusetts to pass this legislation, which would be the second most restrictive indoor tanning law in the nation, behind the state of Texas, and is in line with Wisconsin requirements banning minors under 16 from indoor tanning,” said Dr. James.
In addition, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering legislation to restrict minors’ access to tanning beds.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering changes to the current classification of indoor tanning devices based on the recommendations of a scientific and medical community panel that convened in March. Currently, the FDA classifies indoor tanning devices as Class 1, the category for items that have minimal potential to cause harm to individuals. Items in Class 1 include adhesive bandages and tongue depressors.
“Dermatologists from the AADA and many other organizations, researchers, and patients urged the FDA to ban indoor tanning devices entirely, or at least to minors,” said Dr. James. “We also encouraged the FDA to shift the classification of indoor tanning to one that more closely matches the health risks of these devices and place additional regulations on these harmful devices.”
In addition, earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission – which is the federal government agency that works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices – issued a consent order that prohibits the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) from making false health and safety claims about indoor tanning. Under its settlement with the FTC, any future ITA ads that make safety or health benefits claims for indoor tanning may not be misleading, must be substantiated, and must clearly and prominently disclose that exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
“The AADA is hopeful that the actions at the federal and state levels will persuade individuals to stop indoor tanning altogether,” said Dr. James. “In addition, these efforts to discourage indoor tanning will help reduce the future costs of treating skin cancers, since $1.8 billion is spent each year on treating skin cancers in the United States, of which about $300 million is spent on melanomas alone. As a type of cancer that has a known environmental carcinogen, this is a highly preventable disease. Protecting oneself by using sunscreens, wearing sun protective clothing, seeking the shade, and avoiding intentional exposure to tanning devices or midday sun are simple ways everyone can reduce their chances of getting skin cancer.”
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. A sister organization to the Academy, the American Academy of Dermatology Association is the resource for government affairs, health policy and practice information for dermatologists, and plays a major role in formulating policies that can enhance the quality of dermatologic care. With a membership of more than 16,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin. For more information, contact the Academy at 1 (888) 462-DERM (3376) or visit www.aad.org.