With Prom not that far away, the following article contains a word of warning in regard to tanning beds.
Parents must keep teenagers out of tanning beds, Nebraska docs say
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 1:00 am | Updated: 11:05 am, Wed Mar 18, 2015.
LiveWellNebraska guest blog
This article was submitted by Dr. David J. Watts, Dr. Anthony J. Griess, Dr. Scott DeBates, Nebraska Medical Association and Nebraska Dermatology Society.
As prom season approaches, tanning ads are again prominent on radio, and in high school and college newspapers. But contrary to ad claims, there is nothing healthy about that “glow.” Far from being healthy or safe, a tan is actually triggered by skin cell injury, and so always indicates that damage has already been done.
Worse, to get a fast tan, many tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation that far exceeds UV in natural sunlight. Human evolution has not equipped even tanned skin to withstand such extreme UV exposures without injury. Accumulating UV damage leads to faster aging and all too often to melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer.
You may be thinking that just a few indoor tanning sessions won’t hurt – that they can’t really be that harmful. But science clearly shows that indoor tanning is much more dangerous than previously assumed, especially for young people. A single indoor UV tanning exposure as a young person is linked to an alarming 34-59 percent increase in the risk of melanoma.
Not only that, the skin remembers every single tanning session. Melanoma risk increases almost 2 percent for each additional indoor tanning exposure in a given year. Melanoma is now the number one cancer in the U.S. among young adults aged 25-29 years, and is one of the most common cancers of teenagers.
Tanning beds are in the highest risk class of cancer-causing agents of the World Health Organization (class 1 human carcinogens) along with tobacco and asbestos. Because of the public health danger, most of Australia recently banned commercial UV tanning beds altogether.
In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to America to help reduce skin cancer, a major goal being to “reduce harms from indoor tanning.” Also in 2014 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassified tanning beds into a higher risk category, and imposed its strongest consumer warning to date. A “black box” label on tanning beds will warn that persons under 18 should not use them. However, there is no federal penalty to salons who allow minors to tan despite the health risk.
Parents must know the facts to make a wise decision. While understanding and supporting our teenagers sometimes seems like one of the most difficult jobs in life, learning the sobering consequences of indoor tanning has become much easier. Reliable websites with trustworthy information include the American Academies of Dermatology and Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Eleven states, including Texas and Illinois, now ban commercial indoor UV tanning by minors. Similar legislation in Iowa is strongly supported by the American Cancer Society this year. In 2014, Nebraska made parental consent and accompaniment a requirement for minors under 16 who want to tan indoors. But this legislation is only effective if parents fully understand the hazards of indoor tanning.
Young women make up 70 percent of the 1 million people who tan indoors every day in the United States. So it is not surprising that a Mayo Clinic study showed that in recent years melanoma has increased twice as fast in young women as in young men. Furthermore, teenage women in particular often face heavy peer pressure to tan.
As long as minors can legally expose themselves to tanning beds, parents must supply the voice of reason. As skin cancer surgeons who have witnessed the destruction that can result from indoor tanning, we urge parents to help their teen make a healthy choice. Ideally, this would be to embrace and celebrate their own natural skin tone. But at the very least, a good bronzing lotion is a practical alternative to harmful UV rays.