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Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays

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FDA believes that limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen or sunblock are particularly important for children since these measures can prevent sunburn at a young age.

NCI reports that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma. Teenage girls and young women make up a growing number of tanning bed customers.

“Young people may not think they are vulnerable to skin cancer,” says Kaczmarek. “They have difficulty thinking about their own mortality.” Yet of the more than 68,000 people in the United States who will learn they have melanoma this year, one out of eight will die from it, according to NCI estimates. In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that melanoma is the second most common cancer in women 20 to 29 years old.

Some states are considering laws to ban those under age 18 from using tanning beds. And many states now have laws that require minors to have a parent’s consent or be accompanied by a parent to the tanning facility.

FDA’s current performance standard requires that a sunlamp product’s label include a recommended exposure schedule. FDA has advised manufacturers that this schedule should provide for exposures of no more than three sessions in the first week.

In an NCI-sponsored study published in September 2009 in the Archives of Dermatology, the study researchers hired and trained college students to pose as 15-year-old, fair-skinned girls who had never tanned before. By telephone, the students asked more than 3,600 tanning facilities in all 50 states about their practices.

Less than 11 percent of the facilities followed FDA’s recommended exposure schedule of three or fewer sessions the first week. About 71 percent said they would allow a teen to tan all seven days the first week, and many promoted frequent tanning with “unlimited tanning” discount price packages.

About 87 percent of the facilities required parental consent, leading the researchers to conclude that “many parents are allowing their teens to tan and are providing written consent or accompaniment.”