HealthZette

Tanning and Teens Don’t Go Together

FDA proposes unprecedented ban to prevent long-term damage

Sun-kissed skin has long been considered attractive. This time of year especially, we’d prefer that it appear as if we ran off to an exotic island for the weekend and returned with a healthy glow.

Since we have neither the time nor money, however — there’s the tanning bed.

After years of being told about the possible dangers associated with tanning, not everyone, it is obvious, has heeded the warnings. Teens especially have a hard time processing that there is risk associated with anything they do, let alone climbing onto a tanning bed.

That is why the FDA this past week proposed strict new rules for tanning beds, banning those under the age of 18 from using the devices. The magnitude of the initiative comes after multiple studies were done by the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies and organizations.

“We’ve spent years convincing children that cigarettes aren’t cool. Now it’s time to do the same with tanning,” Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a dermatological surgeon with a private practice in Manhattan, told LifeZette. “While tanning is cosmetically fashionable, this is merely a cultural phenomena. I expect tanning to become less fashionable as parents and their children are educated on the immense risks of tanning, and especially tanning beds.”

Indoor tanning causes more skin cancer than smoking causes lung cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports. The American Academy of Dermatology cites that people who tan are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used a tanning bed.

The consequences can be, if not disfiguring, deadly.

Yet 1.6 million minors tan indoors each year, increasing their risk of skin cancer and other damage, based on data in the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Of high school senior girls alone, 27 percent say they have hit the beds.

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Why the focus on kids? The effects of exposure to UV radiation add up over one’s lifetime, according to FDA officials. Therefore, UV radiation exposure in children and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life.

But teens aren’t the only ones targeted with this new round of rules. Adults, 18 and older, would be required to sign a risk-acknowledgement certification that states they have been informed of the risks before their first tanning session and every six months thereafter.

The initiative also aims to improve eye safety, enhance labeling on bulbs to prevent burns, and require emergency shut-off switches for each device.

Related: When a Child Has Cancer

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports more than 419,000 cases of the disease in the U.S. each year that are linked to indoor tanning, including about 245,000 basal cell carcinomas, 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas, and 6,200 melanomas.

“There are a multitude of pros regarding the FDA’s newly proposed tanning bed regulations,” Prystowsky said.

The proposed rules are available online for public comment for 90 days.