On 3/19/2013 Minnesota dermatologist Dr. Mohiba Tareen and Medical Assistant Amy Tierney were asked to speak by the American Cancer Society at the Minnesota State Capitol about tanning bed dangers. In particular, Dr. Tareen focused on bad tanning habits for those under 18 years old. While practicing in New York City, Dr. Tareen helped pass legislation restricting the tanning age for indoor tanning to age 18. We at Tareen Dermatology hope to accomplish this for the upcoming legislative year. Here are some surprising facts and figures about the indoor tanning industry and tanning bed dangers.
The Data Against Indoor Tanning:
-Using indoor tanning – especially before the age of 35 – increases one’s chance of developing melanoma. The fast growth of cells during the teen years makes teens especially susceptible to the cancer-causing effects of radiation.
-The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared indoor tanning booths to be a carcinogen- on par with smoking. The WHO suggests the international tanning age to be 18.
-The link between YOUTHFUL sunbed tanning and melanoma is consistent: a 75% increase in melanoma risk among those who first used tanning beds in their teens or twenties.
-The American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Pediatrics call for a ban on youth tanning.
-Numerous states, cities/counties (Chicago, Howard County Maryland, etc), and Britain have banned indoor tanning for those under the age of 18.
Myths propagated by the tanning bed industry and purported benefits of tanning
-The industry touts the benefits of vitamin D, thus misleading impressionable teens into thinking that tanning is “good for you.” In reality, vitamin D should be obtained through diet and modest amounts of normal sun exposure. Thus, there are benefits of NATURAL sunlight, not artificial indoor tanning bulbs.
-The industry suggests a “base tan” will protect people from burning. This is false- a base tan is equal only to SPF 3 protection. Furthermore, once a teen has a “base tan” he or she is more likely to go tanning at the beach without sunscreen under the false pretense of being protected.
-The tanning industry markets “prom” and “homecoming” specials- again targeting vulnerable teens who desire to fit in.
-The FDA recommends no more than 3 indoor tanning sessions per week – the industry encourages much higher use with unlimited tanning specials and purporting the benefits of tanning.
-Benefits of tanning? – the sun is a much safer and more natural source than tanning beds that emit artificial levels of UVA and UVB. However, we still recommend sun protection and avoiding direct sun exposure when possible.
Costs Associated with Skin Cancer Treatment
-Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with almost 3.5 million cancers diagnosed in the US annually.
–Minnesota has one of the highest rates of melanoma — melanoma rates rose 38 percent for females and 35 percent for males between 2005 and 2009.
-Melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for the past 30 years, while other common forms of cancer (lung, breast, colon) are declining.
-The cost for treatment of skin cancer in the US is more than $1.5 billion for non-melanoma skin cancer and $2.36 billion for melanoma
Summary: Research demonstrates that teenagers’ brains are still developing and unable to make fully rationale decisions. Tanning is a carcinogenic activity that should be prevented at least until the age of 18, when an informed decision about one’s skin and health can be effectively made. Write to your local legislator in support of this important bill.