American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for Ban on Youth Tanning

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February 28, 2011 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a group of 60,000 pediatricians, today called for all US tanning salons to bar minors. With this new policy statement, the AAP joins health groups such as the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Academy of Dermatology, and The Skin Cancer Foundation in demanding a ban on indoor tanning for young people.

"We strongly commend the AAP for this definitive statement pushing for prohibition of indoor tanning for young people," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "The damage caused by the 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."

Sophie J. Balk, MD, coauthor of the policy statement and a pediatrician at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, NY, explained that the AAP wanted to make a "clear statement" supporting the other groups in recognizing the dangers of indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanning. Since 2009, she pointed out, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, affiliated with WHO, has classified tanning beds as cancer-causing, and studies show that those who first use tanning beds before age 35 have a 75 percent increase in their lifetime risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. On average, indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.

More than a million Americans use indoor tanning salons every day, Dr. Balk pointed out, with increasingly high use among females in their teens and twenties; about 35 percent of 17-year-old girls use them, noted Dr. Balk. Almost 36 percent of women and 12.2 percent of men aged 18-24 surveyed in a 2010 Archives of Dermatology study tanned indoors in the past year, and many experts link such figures to the rapidly rising incidence of melanoma among young people; it is now the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.

Currently, 11 states already restrict tanning for young people, but to date, none of these restrictions apply to those 18 years or older. Parental permission is required in another 31 states, but that has not proven effective in keeping young people out of tanning salons, according to June K. Robinson, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern University in Chicago. That is a key reason why the AAP joined with other groups in calling for stronger measures.