Public Health

Cancer Threat From Tanning Beds May Prompt FDA Changes

Girl tans indoors.

Tanning early can raise the risk of skin cancer later on. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

It's another dreary rainy day here, after an excruciatingly long and snowy winter. But the sun's prolonged absence still isn't enough to drive us to the eerie blue glow of a tanning bed.

But some people, especially teens, seem particularly susceptible to the siren song of tanning salons, despite the evidence that exposure to the intense UV light heightens their risk for skin cancer years later.

A panel of experts recommended the Food and Drug Administration step up the regulation of artificial tanning equipment and even consider a prohibition on its use for people younger than 18.

Many states already regulate access of teens to tanning salons, but a study published that relied on college students
who sounded like 15-year-old girls to call for tanning appointments
found many salons didn't live up to FDA recommendations.

"Given the absence of any demonstrated benefit, I think it's an obligation for us to ban artificial tanning for those under 18," said panel member Dr. Michael Olding, a plastic surgeon at George Washington University, according to the Associated Press. Other experts on the panel said the evidence doesn't support going that far.

Early this year, the Federal Trade Commission took the Indoor Tanning Association to task for advertising artificial tanning as "safe and beneficial" and downplaying the risks. Under a settlement, the tanning group agreed to beef up the risk info in ads.

Even if the FDA doesn't change its stance, an increase in the cost of tanning might discourage some patrons. Thanks to the new health law just passed by Congress, indoor tanning services will soon carry a 10 percent excise tax.

For more on the risk from indoor tanning, see this FDA briefing document.

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