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Indoor Tanning Ban For Minors Considered

February 28, 2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is seeking to ban teens from tanning salons in hopes of reducing their risk of skin cancer, AP reports.

Regulations by more than 30 states of indoor tanning by minors are currently in place with some refusing children younger than 14 into the tanning booths or requiring parental permission. Illinois and New York are among states considering bills barring anyone under 18 from indoor tanning.

AAP joins the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Academy of Dermatology and other groups that are already pushing for a ban. “There are more tanning facilities in the US than there are Starbucks or McDonald’s. More than a million visits are made every day,” claims Dr. Sophie J. Balk, who helped write the new statement for the AAP.

Before age 35, people have a 75 percent increase in their chances of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, from indoor tanning booths, Reuters Health is reporting about the research.

One large Scandinavian study showed only 24 out of every 10,000 young women who tanned regularly developed melanoma compared to 17 out of every 10,000 who had never or only rarely used a tanning bed. However ultraviolet light – whether artificial or from the sun — also causes less dangerous types of skin cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million skin cancers are diagnosed every year in the US and most of them are sun-related, with about 8,700 Americans dying from the disease. One in 50 white people get melanoma at some point in their life, and the number has been climbing for the past three decades.

Lead author Dr. Sophie Balk of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York says indoor tanning is popular among teenage girls. Some make getting a tan part of their senior prom ritual. “I see it as a very important public health issue,” explained Balk, “We’re coming out very strongly for legislation that supports banning minors’ access to tanning salons.”

“The decision whether or not a teenager suntans should be left to his or her parents,” Executive Director John Overstreet told Reuters Health by e-mail. “It would be premature for the government to weigh in against an industry that is made up largely of women owning small businesses that employ tens of thousands of people.”

Appearing in the journal Pediatrics, the AAP’s policy statement, which is accompanied by a technical report, also warns against sunbathing — even relaxing in the shade. “A fair-skinned person sitting under a tree can burn in less than an hour,” the statement notes. “Clouds decrease UV (radiation) intensity but not to the same extent that they decrease heat intensity and, thus, promotes a misperception of protection.”

The AAP recommends, to protect against the sun, wearing clothing and brimmed hats and applying generous amounts of sunscreen — factor 15 or higher, every two hours and after swimming. Sunscreen isn’t perfect, and some of the ingredients may end up in breast milk. Still, slashing cancer risks outweighs that theoretical concern, according to Balk.

“I like to encourage my patients to appreciate who they are and their natural beauty without doing something that is going to potentially harm them,” Balk told Reuters Health.

But that’s not always easy, added Robinson, who often talks to teenage girls worried about their tan. “We have to give them alternatives that allow them to still feel good about themselves,” she said, noting that self-tanning lotions have been fairly successful. While prices vary widely, some cost less than $10, according to the American Cancer Society.

Another tactic she uses with teenage girls is telling them about skin aging, which is sped up by ultraviolet light. “When you’re trying to change someone’s behavior,” Robinson said, “wrinkles trump skin cancer!”

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