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Few States or Countries Ban Tanning Beds

Although indoor tanning can more than double your risk of skin cancer, few states or countries bar young people from using them, new research finds.

The study, from the April issue of the Archives of Dermatology, found France was the only country out of six studied that bans children from using indoor tanning devices. Only three American states -- Texas, Illinois and Wisconsin -- have laws to keep children from using tanning beds.

Like the sun, tanning bed bulbs emit ultraviolet (UV) light to tan the skin. According to the study, UV light from tanning beds may be stronger than natural UV light.

"Certain carcinogens are more of a risk to children than adults and UV light is one of those," says one of the study's authors, Dr. Robert Dellavalle, director of the dermatoepidemiology unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. "Teens need special guidance in determining risk."

And, he says, public policy makers should consider regulations limiting youth access to indoor tanning and/or additional taxes on the service.

Every year, more than 2 million teenagers in the United States visit tanning salons, according to the study. Previous studies have found between 10 percent and 34 percent of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 have used indoor tanning.

"Tanning salons have always tried to imply that it's a 'safe' tan," says Dr. Ted Daly, director of pediatric dermatology at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y. "There is no safe tan."

People who use tanning devices have 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell cancer and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell cancer, reports the study. More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and nearly 10,000 people will die from skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

For this study, Dellavalle and his colleagues examined the laws in France and five English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The researchers compared the laws in each country on limiting access to tanning salons to regulations on another known carcinogen, tobacco.

They found that all of the countries limited youth access to tobacco, but that only France had a complete ban on indoor tanning use for children under 18. In fact, France lets teens smoke before it lets them go to a tanning salon.

There were no restrictions on tanning salon use in Australia (which has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world), New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and only a few areas in Canada and the United States restricted indoor tanning use in children.

Texas prohibits the use of tanning salons by kids under 13; in Illinois, it's for children under 14; Wisconsin limits kids 16 and under; and the Canadian province of New Brunswick bans indoor tanning for anyone under 18.

While saying he hates the idea of any additional government regulation, Daly says some sort of law limiting youth access to tanning salons is probably a good idea.

"Kids think they're invincible, but they're increasing their risk for skin cancer in the long run," Daly says. "People need to realize they're not buying an ice cream. There are consequences to tanning."

Both Daly and Dellavalle acknowledge that teens think they look better with a tan.

If your teen wants to get a tan before the prom or some other special occasion, Daly says that's probably OK. But he adds that many teens are tanning every week, and that's not OK. "Everything in moderation," he adds.

Dellavalle says there are plenty of sunless and UV-free ways of getting tan these days from cosmetic creams and lotions. He says many teenage girls try to emulate the tanned look of celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez.

More information

To learn more about indoor tanning, visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Reference Source 101


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