Brain and Body

The FDA May Soon Ban Indoor Tanning for People Under 18

December 30, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Indoor tanning
Photo credit: Evil Erin/flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Getting a “fake bake” has got to go.

Tanning beds may be a lot older than you might think — they were brought to the United States in 1979 by a German scientist, Friedrich Wolff, in the late 70s. Finally, about three and a half decades later, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to ban indoor tanning for people under the age of 18.

Of course, many people will argue that indoor tanning should be banned for people of all ages, but since it’s the youngsters who are at the greatest risk for the negative health consequences of “fake baking,” it’s still a step in the right direction.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some of the risks of indoor tanning include an increased risk of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. In fact, researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the US annually, and even just one tanning session can increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.

The FDA hopes to implement rules to require sunbed manufacturers to make sunbed warnings clearer. After a user’s first indoor tanning session, he or she would be required to sign a new form acknowledging an understanding of the risks of tanning every six months.

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"Today’s action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms," acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement. "Individuals under 18 are at greatest risk of the adverse health consequences of indoor tanning."

The agency says that about 1.6 million minors indoor tan each year, and on average, over 3,000 emergency room visits a year occur due to injuries related to indoor tanning in the US.

Back in 2013, the FDA recommended that tanning beds not be used by people under the age of 18 but didn’t go forward with actually banning them. The new goal to ban the beds for younger teens aligns with the recommendations of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is an organization that’s part of the World Health Organization.

The FDA also proposed to add emergency shut off switches, or “panic buttons” to the tanning beds. Eye safety should also be improved by adding requirements that would limit the amount of light allowed through the protective eyewear, according to the agency.

“The FDA understands that some adults may decide to continue to use sunlamp products,” continued Ostroff. “These proposed rules are meant to help adults make their decisions based on truthful information and to ensure manufacturers and tanning facilities take additional steps to improve the safety of these devices.”

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