A new research study from Washington University (St. Louis) reports that tanning parlors give customers inconsistent and often incorrect information about the risks of indoor tanning.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued safety guidelines for indoor tanning, Reuters Health reports, but at present the agency cannot enforce the guidelines. It is up to individual states to pass and enforce their own indoor tanning regulations. For instance, Missouri is one of 17 states without age or safety restrictions on indoor tanning, which is increasingly popular among young women.
Dr. Sophie J. Balk, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York, is concerned about the frequency of teenagers’ visits to tanning parlors. Young women are not limiting their indoor tanning to special occasions, like the prom. “It’s something that’s a very common practice among lots of kids, particularly Caucasian girls,” Dr. Balk said, and she told Reuters Health that young teenagers “may not understand the risk.”
Dr. Brundha Balaraman, who led the new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, warned of the cumulative effects of indoor tanning: “The younger you start, the more damage you accrue.” In their research, Dr. Balaraman and her colleagues talked to operators of 243 indoor tanning facilities, twice each, to ask about teen tanning. Nearly two-thirds of operators said they would allow kids as young as 10 or 12 to tan, sometimes without parental consent, Reuters Health reported. Forty-three percent of the tanning parlors claimed there were no risks tied to indoor tanning, and 80 percent said tanning could prevent future sunburns, the research team wrote Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
The National Cancer Institute warns that tanning increases a person’s chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The cancer institute estimates that 76,690 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2013, and 9,480 will die from it. The researchers told Reuters Health that there is a need for federal legislation to give the FDA greater regulation of underage tanning since getting laws passed in each individual state is slow and ineffective.