Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced proposed regulations that would ban children under 18 from patronizing indoor tanning facilities and would require adult customers to sign strongly worded new consent forms every six months. The FDA says tanning beds and sun lamps can cause skin cancer, burns, and eye damage. "Today's action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms," says acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff in a statement. "Individuals under 18 years are at greatest risk of the adverse health consequences of indoor tanning."
The public has 90 days to comment on the new rules. After that, the FDA could make them official. The proposed regulations also require new safety features. And the FDA, which regulates the tanning beds and sunlamps as medical devices, said it would force manufacturers to make already required warning labels more prominent, add a panic button to turn the lamp off, and make other safety modifications.
Medical groups immediately applauded the aggressive moves, which come about 18 months after the FDA put new warning labels on the devices used by millions of people (1.6 of which are minors) each year at tens of thousands of tanning salons, health clubs and other facilities. "The FDA's long-awaited tanning device proposals are an important step that will help to reduce skin cancer diagnoses and deaths," the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, which advocates in Washington on health issues, said in a statement. "We commend the FDA for educating the public about the dangers of exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation and restricting use for our nation's youth. Indoor tanning devices are not safe."
Indoor tanners are 59 percent more likely than non-users to develop melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Intermittent exposures to intense UV radiation leading to sunburns, especially in childhood and teen years, increase the risk of melanoma, according to NCI.
The Indoor Tanning Association, representing many tanning bed manufacturers and salon owners, said in a statement that the proposed rules are unneeded: "The indoor tanning industry is heavily regulated at both the federal and state levels and our customers are well aware of the potential risks of over exposure." The group said that "the decision regarding whether or not a teen suntans, whether indoors or outside, is a decision for his/her parents, not the government."