Why Doctors Want Teen Tanning Made Illegal

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
Teen Tanning
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The American Academy of Pediatrics released an official policy statement today supporting legislation to make underage teen tanning illegal. This moves targets the growing number of young Americans who are developing skin cancer as a direct result of unsafe sun exposure.

The War Against Teen Tanning

In recent years the has been a large amount of legislative proposals aimed to discourage minors from the use of indoor tanning. Many states have already adopted regulatory measures on underage tanning, such as requiring parental signed consent for persons under the age of 18. However, organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory board, World Health Organization (WHO), American Medical Association, American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatology Surgery, and now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are now supporting an all out ban against use of tanning salon by persons under the age of 18.

Earlier this year the Obama administration also placed a 10 percent tax on tanning salons in an effort to discourage their use, especially among their youngest patrons. This same tactic was deployed against cigarettes, causing a modest 2 to 3 percent reduction in cigarette use.

The Dangers of Tanning

Indoor tanning has been included by the WHO into the Group 1 category of the most dangerous cancer-causing agents. Other substances included in the same category include cigarettes, arsenic and HIV.

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Tanning beds are designed to deliver a highly concentrated amount of UV radiation in order to create a quick tan. The problem is that when human skin cells come in contact with UV rays, they cause damage to the cells, alarming your immune system into rushing to fix them. However, this cellular repair isn't always done correctly, causing mutations which often lead to skin cancer.

One large scale study showed that indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer - than those who have never used an indoor tanning device. In 2010 alone there were 68,130 new cases of melanoma and nearly 9,000 deaths.

Tanning salon owners have attempted to defend indoor tanning saying that it allows “control” over the amount of UV expose that person is exposed to. Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of evidence shows that this notion is a fallacy.

Young, Tanned Skinned Teens

Despite warnings about the dangers of tanning beds and the risk for skin cancer over 30 million people frequent these salons each year, 2.3 million of which are teens. The Skin Cancer Foundation says the majority of these tanners are young women, who ironically are at the highest risk for damage caused by this behavior.

In a statement the AAP encouraged pediatricians to support the legislative ban on minor tanning in addition to increasing efforts to education young children and parents on the dangers of UV radiation.

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