New York, NY (April 27, 2022) — May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and The Skin Cancer Foundation would like to take this opportunity to remind the public just how dangerous tanning beds are. Despite the well-documented risks associated with the use of tanning beds, too many teens still have access to them.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen, and while UV rays from the sun are dangerous, the UV radiation emitted by artificial tanning devices can be 10 to 15 times stronger than solar radiation. Worse still, the risks are greater the younger a person begins tanning. Just one indoor tanning session before the age of 35 can increase the risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, by 75 percent.
“The danger of indoor tanning is nothing new, and many laws and campaigns have been developed over the years to combat this harmful practice,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “State laws banning minors from using tanning beds and effective anti-tanning educational campaigns prove that we’ve made some progress. In fact, a 2019 study found that indoor tanning among U.S. high school students decreased by 53 percent between 2009 and 2015. But until the number of people using indoor tanning devices is zero, there is still work to be done.”
As of April 2022, 20 states and the District of Columbia have laws completely banning minors from indoor tanning. Washington and Oregon allow some minors to use tanning beds with a medical exception. The Skin Cancer Foundation, along with many other healthy skin advocates, is in favor of a total ban on tanning beds in the United States.
The knowledge that tanning bed use can lead to a skin cancer diagnosis is not always a deterrent. This spring, a young TikTok user in Michigan (where minors can visit tanning salons with parental consent) posted a video of herself using a tanning bed and dismissed the cancer risk. Her video went viral, and many TikTok users responded by sharing their history of tanning bed use and skin cancer diagnoses later in life. Weeks later, the same woman posted another video, saying “I take it all back” and announced that she was having a mole biopsied and that she would no longer use tanning beds.
In 2015, the FDA proposed a rule that would ban individuals under 18 from using tanning devices, require tanning device manufacturers to take additional safety measures and adult users to sign a consent form prior to engaging in this risky behavior. The proposed rule was never made final, and The Skin Cancer Foundation remains hopeful that it will be soon.
Skin Cancer Awareness Month is a perfect time to check on your state and local laws pertaining to indoor tanning — we all have the power to advocate for legislation that protects minors from the dangers of UV tanning. Take a moment to contact your state and local representatives to let them know you support restrictions on indoor tanning!
About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation saves and improves lives by empowering people to take a proactive approach to daily sun protection and the early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit SkinCancer.org.