Indoor Tanning Tax Could Save Lives

New Health Care Reform Bill Imposes a Ten Percent Tax on Tanning Bed Use

New York, NY (March 22, 2010) - The House of Representative's approval of the 10 percent excise tax on the use of indoor tanning beds as part of the new health care reform bill is an important step forward in the fight against skin cancer. With more than 3.5 million estimated cases each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, and scientific research has proven an association between all forms of skin cancer and ultraviolet radiation (UVR), including the UVR from indoor tanning beds.

"This tax is a master stroke, akin to the sin tax on cigarettes; both tanning and smoking are activities scientifically proven to cause harm to the human body," said Bruce E. Katz, MD, educational spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. "The tax will hopefully serve a double purpose, not only raising billions for health care, but giving people one more reason to protect their health by staying away from tanning salons."

On an average day, more than one million Americans use tanning salons. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), affiliated with the World Health Organization, published a landmark report in 2009 based on exhaustive research placing the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) produced by tanning beds among the most dangerous forms of radiation for humans, alongside other forms including radon and plutonium as well as solar UVR.

Seventy one percent of tanning salon patrons are girls and women aged 16-29. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old. According to a new study of melanoma's genetic makeup, the vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by (UV). First exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.

In addition, people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. More than 250,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, is rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring.

"Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer," said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. "Reducing UVR exposure is simply the easiest and most important prevention measure one can take."

The tax, which is estimated to raise $2.7 billion over ten years, will take effect on July 1, 2010. In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting an Advisory Panel Committee Meeting on Thursday, March 25 to review the classification of tanning beds. This could result in stricter regulations, including a ban on use by minors.