Because the FDA still classifies tanning machines as Class I medical devices, teens have almost unlimited access to them, making up 2.3 million of the nearly 30 million indoor tanners in the US every year. With melanoma incidence in people under age 20 rising 2.9 percent between 1973 and 2001, many experts believe this easy access is dangerous. In a recent issue of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal, Philippe Autier, MD, MPH, former head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’s Prevention Group, pointed out that there is “considerable data pointing to childhood and adolescence as the key periods for initiation and develop- ment of melanoma in adulthood.” In a landmark report last year naming UV tanning devices as an important cause of cancer, the IARC cited research showing that first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.
Laws regarding minors’ access to tanning beds currently vary from state to state, with some even allowing children under age 14 to tan indoors if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Raising the classification of tanning beds to Class II or higher would make teens’ access to tanning beds more difficult. This is a key goal for anti-tanning experts and groups such as The Skin Cancer Foundation.