Hopefully you don’t know a teen who uses a tanning bed, but the scary thing is that too many teens do use tanning beds since they are completely unaware of the dangers involved with their use. Once a teen starts tanning it is really hard to get them to stop (it has even been proven that tanning is addictive which is very scary). The US lags behind other nations in banning the use of tanning beds by teens; for instance the UK has banned the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation:
Despite a link between indoor tanning bed use and an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, 2.3 million teenagers visit tanning salons every year. In the spring, many tanning salon patrons are college students getting ready for spring formals, and high school students gearing up for prom season. So it’s no surprise that melanoma is now the most common form of cancer in young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults ages 15-29.
“The damage caused by the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds and the sun is cumulative and often irreversible, and the earlier people start to tan, the higher their risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetimes,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. “In fact, melanoma risk increases by 75 percent when indoor tanning begins before age 35.”
If the threat of skin cancer isn’t enough to scare young people away from tanning salons, they should know that 90 percent of visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by exposure to UV radiation. Tanning accelerates the signs of aging, including wrinkles, leathering and fine lines, which can be seen as early as in one’s twenties.
Despite the fact that The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a ban on the use of tanning beds by minors it is still legal for teens to use tanning beds. The Skin Cancer Foundation points out:
In the US, tanning is regulated by the states, some of which allow children as young as 14 to tan. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies UV-emitting tanning machines as Class I Medical Devices, meaning that it considers them to “present minimal potential for harm to the user.” Last year, the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel of the FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee unanimously recommended that the FDA upgrade its classification of tanning devices to better reflect the serious health risks tanning machines pose. The majority of the panel was also in favor of an age restriction to limit minors’ access to UV tanning devices.
So until the FDA and/or the federal government ban the use of tanning beds by minors what can you do to prevent teens from using tanning beds? First and foremost, I think education is key. If scaring a teen with the risk of cancer isn’t enough to get them to stop using a tanning bed appeal to their vanity by explaining that they are aging their skin tremendously by using a tanning bed. If you want to do even more write to the FDA and/or your senator or congressperson asking them to support a ban on tanning bed use by minors. Recommend to a teen who really likes how their skin looks tan to get a spray tan or fake a tan with a home applied tanning lotion. There are a tremendous number of products on the market in all price ranges so there is really no excuse not to try one if you like the way your skin looks tan.
If any of the above tactics don’t stop the teens you know from tanning have them hear a personal story about the dangers of tanning beds. I found this story on the FDA website:
Brittany Lietz Cicala of Chesapeake Beach, Md., began tanning indoors at age 17. She stopped at age 20 when she was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The former Miss Maryland says she used tanning beds at least four times a week, and sometimes every day.
“Growing up, until I started using tanning beds, my parents were very strict about me wearing sunscreen,” says Cicala. Although she also tanned in the summer sun during her 3 years of tanning bed use, Cicala estimates that 90 percent of her UV exposure was in tanning beds during this period.
In the 4 years since she was diagnosed with melanoma, Cicala’s surgeries have left her with about 25 scars. Cicala gets a head-to-toe skin exam every 3 months, which usually results in removal of a suspicious growth.
Sources and Further Reading:
An ABC World News segment about the dangers of indoor tanning including the personal story of a young woman battling melanoma.
Lots of information about the dangers of indoor tanning can be found on this page of The Skin Cancer Foundation website.
Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays from the FDA.
Indoor Tanning Encouraged by Parents, Peers– Skin Inc.