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FDA May Forbid Teens From Using Tanning Beds

March 30, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering to put stricter limits over tanning salons and wants to ban anyone younger than 18 years of age from using a tanning bed, an advisory panel announced last week.

The panel is calling for tighter controls on the industry such as requiring teenagers to get the approval from their parents before using tanning beds or limiting the use of artificial tanning to a certain age. "Given the absence of any demonstrated benefit, I think it is an obligation for us to ban artificial tanning for those under 18," said panelist Dr. Michael Olding.

Along with a possible ban for teenagers, the panel also recommended that visible warning labels should be placed either on the tanning machines or in the salons in order to caution tanners of the possible dangers. In addition, the committee decided that stricter regulations and classifications were critical to make the machines safer. At this time the machines are categorized as FDA Class 1 devices, the ones that are least likely to cause harm. In case the FDA decided to change their classification from Class 1 to Class 2, as advised by the panel, the FDA could limit the levels of radiation the machines emit. Class 2 devices include X-ray machines and powered wheelchairs.

Getting a tan, whether from a tanning bed or the sun, increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Last year, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared tanning beds as "carcinogenic to humans." It was discovered that young individuals in their teens and 20s who use tanning beds on a regular basis have a 75 per cent higher risk of suffer from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma accounted for nearly 69,000 cases of skin cancer in 2009 and will account for most (about 8,650) of the 11,590 mortality cases due to skin cancer each year.

Also, studies of tanning carried out by the FDA, found that between 40 and 60 per cent of teenage girls used artificial tanning services in the year prior to the survey in spite of the fact that they were very well aware of the associated cancer risks. The Skin Cancer Foundation also published their data according to which excessive tanning stands behind the rise in deadly melanomas in young ladies between the ages of 15 and 39 years, the most avid users of these salons.

In many cities nationwide, the number of indoor tanning salons exceeds the number of Starbucks, says a 2009 study from San Diego State University, and many major health organizations would like that to change.

To those who are desperate to get a tan before summer starts, dermatologists recommend to better use tanning products that are available on the market, noting that those products can provide a gradual tan without the dangers of being exposed to UV rays.

It will probably be few weeks or even months before The FDA issues a decision on its advisory panel's recommendations. At this point there are more than 25 states which already have laws requiring youngsters to get parental permission in order to use tanning salons. However, the studies have demonstrated that those laws are very often neglected. Making tanning beds illegal for young people, same way as it is illegal to sell them cigarettes, could have a better impact. This move is also being supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Tags: Parenting and Families