The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on indoor tanning as they have proposed new warning labels for the beds, informing users of their cancer risk.
For over 30 years, the FDA has regulated tanning beds, but this is the first time the agency said the beds should not be used by people under 18 years of age. They want to put warnings on pamphlets, catalogues and websites about tanning. They are also proposing that tanning bed manufacturers meet specific safety and design requirements, like timers and limits on radiation.
It comes after cases of melanoma amongst teens increased, becoming the second most common cancer in young adults. Around 2.3 million teenagers in America tan indoors every year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Being exposed to ultraviolet radiation through indoor tanning raises the risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Though most cases are diagnosed when people are in their 40s and 50s, doctors link the disease to sun exposure at a younger age.
Now that there is an increase of skin cancer cases among people in their teens and 20s, physicians are urging the government to take action.
"As a dermatologist, I see the consequences of indoor tanning. I have to diagnose too many young people with melanoma and see the grief that it causes to these families," Dr. Mary Maloney of the American Academy of Dermatology said. She said the FDA taking action is a good first step, but she wants them to ban anyone under age 18 from using the beds.
One shocking study of Missouri tanning salons found that 65 percent of 250 businesses surveyed allowed children ages 10 to 12 to tan without parental permission.
Up until now, tanning beds have been classified as low-risk devices, placed in the same category as bandages and tongue depressors. But this proposal will bring their classification to moderate-risk or class II, allowing the FDA to review their safety before manufacturers sell them.
"They don't have to provide any data in advance before they go on the market, so we have no way of providing assurance that the tanning beds are performing up to specifications," Dr. Jeffery Shuren, FDA's director for medical devices, said.
It is important for the beds to be reviewed, as a 2009 study showed that 58 percent of adolescents who tanned indoors had received sunburns.
"If you get an indoor tan you shouldn't be burning," Shuren said.
While the Indoor Tanning Association said it supported changes that would improve customer safety, they also said they were worried that it would "burden [their] members with additional unnecessary governmental costs in an already difficult economic climate."
Though the proposal would not make warning labels required on tanning beds, it would require them on promotional material and websites.
Some experts say these labels would likely never reach most tanning bed users.
"The FDA is requiring that the labels and pamphlets include risk information about skin cancer, but consumers would not be required to see those labels or pamphlets - they are apparently only for the company buying the tanning bed," Diana Zuckerman, of the National Research Center for Women and Families, said.