A Message from the President — Summer 2010

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in March, 2010, a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services went into effect July 1.

According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, this tax will raise an estimated $2.7 billion in revenues by 2019. But more importantly, in the view of The Skin Cancer Foundation, it should encourage people to avoid ultraviolet (UV) tanning. Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, affiliated with the World Health Organization, declared ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices among the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. Tanning bed users are at higher risk of developing all forms of skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanomas of the skin and eyes.

This is not the only sign that the serious problem of indoor tanning is at last attracting federal attention. The new tax follows the March 25 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meeting in which an advisory panel unanimously recommended upgrading the device classification of UV-emitting tanning beds and lamps to better reflect the serious health risks they pose. Currently, tanning devices are Class I medical devices, a category for products “that present minimal potential for harm” according to the FDA. Elastic bandages and tongue depressors are also Class I devices. It looks as though this long-overlooked misclassification will at last be addressed. A higher classification would make tanning machines subject to more stringent regulations, and this, too, could help discourage would-be indoor tanners.

Though we urge everyone to avoid indoor tanning, summer is here and that means more time spent outdoors, and more opportunity to damage your skin with a sunburn or tan. But with small changes in your lifestyle, you can stay sun-safe while enjoying all that summer has to offer. Adjust your schedule to limit outdoor activities between

10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun is strongest. Invest in a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Seek the shade whenever you’re outdoors. Finally, apply a full ounce (two tablespoons) of SPF 15+ sunscreen to your entire body, including a teaspoon to the face, or upgrade your sunscreen to an SPF 30+ if you suspect you’re not applying enough. Use all these simple strategies, and you will go a long way to protect your skin from UV radiation throughout your life.

For more information on how to protect yourself from the sun, read The Skin Cancer Foundation's Prevention Guidelines.

Published on August 27, 2010