Education, prevention and support for the most serious form of skin cancer.

FDA Hopes to Ban the Tan

April 6th, 2016

The FDA recently announced it has proposed important new regulations for the indoor tanning industry. Most significantly, the agency seeks to restrict indoor tanning to adults 18 years old and over. The new rules also aim to improve the safety of tanning beds, as well as force tanning booth manufacturers and operators to openly disclose the health risks of tanning to customers.
Under the proposed regulations, customers at tanning salons would have to sign documents stating their knowledge of the risks involved in tanning before their first session and every six months after that. In addition, tanning booth manufacturers would be required to prominently display health warnings on their devices. It is important to note, however, that these new rules have not been implemented yet, and will be reviewed after a 90 day period set aside for public comment.
While these proposals are a step in the right direction, it is crucial that they are in fact implemented. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and its growth has actually increased in the last few years. Skin cancer is caused by many things, from genetic predisposition to overexposure to the sun, but the damage done by indoor tanning is especially tragic because it is completely avoidable. The possibility of dramatically reducing the incidence of skin cancer purely through prevention is a situation similar to another cancer epidemic of the past: smoking-induced lung cancer.
Just as smoking once inordinately harmed teenagers, so does indoor tanning today. Tanning bed users often start as adolescents and continue tanning up through to their mid-20s. Almost one in three white high school girls tan indoors each year, with some starting as young as 14. Once begun, tanning tends to become a habit, with most tanners reporting 10 or more visits to the salon a year. And while tanning always entails an increased risk of skin cancer, studies have shown that starting at an early age is especially dangerous.
But where does this desire to tan come from? In large part, the problem is one of old, stubborn ideas and ignorance clashing with recent scientific evidence. Once again, there is an obvious parallel with smoking and lung cancer. Smoking was once valued for its purported weight loss effects and cool factor, attitudes that died hard, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. A common misperception about tan skin is that it is actually a sign of good health, and is seen by many as attractive and desirable. The harm these ideas cause is compounded by the fact that many people are unaware of the real danger that overexposure to UV rays entails. Indoor tanning would not be looked at in such a benign way if more people knew that tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer) by 75 percent.
Luckily, the similarity between smoking and tanning also means there is already a road map to a solution. The FDA’s proposed regulations in many ways mirror the laws that led to the decline of smoking and lung cancer rates in America. Allowing children to engage in behavior proven to cause cancer is an obvious mistake, and banning minors from tanning salons would at the very least protect them in their youngest and most vulnerable years. Requiring tanning salons to inform customers of tanning’s risks before accepting their business would act in a similar manner as cancer warnings on cigarette packages, and hopefully dissuade a significant number of potential tanners.
Finally, it must be acknowledged that while critical, these new rules would not be the end to preventing indoor tanning and skin cancer, but just the beginning. While the government restrictions on age of purchase and advertising of tobacco helped, what really led to the lower rates of smoking we see today was the fundamental shift in public attitudes regarding the practice. Smoking was once thought to be cool, a sign of youthful rebellion and independence. That mirage has been replaced by images of racking coughs and trachea tubes—and since lost its broad appeal. Tanning will not see comparable results until the cultural myths surrounding it (tans are healthy, tans are sexy, etc.) are widely dispelled as well. All the more reason to start the process now with strong rules to protect and inform the public.

Upcoming Events

view full calendar +

Events  |  News  |  Blog

Copyright © 2017 IMPACT Melanoma, formerly the Melanoma Foundation of New England. All rights reserved.     Disclaimer