FDA Teen Indoor Tanning Ban Proposed: Agency Hopes To Reduce Skin Cancer Among Teens

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new rules Friday that would ban teens from using indoor tanning equipment in an attempt to stem the rise of skin cancer among young adults, the Detroit Free Press is reporting.

Doctors have seen an alarming number of young people with skin cancer in recent decades, and Darrell Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, believes much of the blame lies with teens using tanning beds.

“Fifteen or 20 years ago, it was very unusual to see someone their 30’s with a melanoma, and now we constantly see women in their late teens and 20’s with melanoma and almost all of them have an extensive tanning bed history.”

If the FDA gets its wish, the days of teens using tanning beds will be coming to an end, and none too soon. The public will have a 90-day period to comment on the proposed ban, and if the FDA decides to follow through, the teen indoor tanning bed ban will be official.

Besides completely banning children under 18 from using indoor tanning beds, the proposed new FDA rules would also require adults to sign “strongly-worded” disclaimers every six months. Other provisions of the proposed rules include more prominent signage warning of the dangers of tanning bed use – besides skin cancer, they can cause burns and eye damage – as well as user-activated “panic” buttons that shut them off immediately. FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement that the proposed new rules are aimed at keeping teens and adults safe from skin cancer.

“Today’s action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harm. Individuals under 18 years are at greatest risk of the adverse health consequences of indoor tanning.”

According to the Skin Cancer Institute, some 2.3 million teens use a tanning bed at least once per year, and teen girls use tanning beds about three times as often as teen boys do (37 percent to 11 percent). Teens using tanning beds (or exposing themselves to the sun outside) are thought to be at a much greater risk of developing skin cancer because their skin cells are dividing and changing more rapidly than those of adults. Teens and adults who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than those who don’t, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.

Rigel notes that adults have the right to choose for themselves whether or not to expose themselves to dangers, but children and teens don’t have that capacity, and the government should look out for them.

“This is a free country, so as an adult, you can make these decisions, just as you can choose to smoke. But minors need to be protected.”

Teens and children are already banned from using indoor tanning beds in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

One group that is not on board with the proposed FDA teen tanning ban is the Indoor Tanning Association, a trade group that represents tanning bed manufacturers and salon owners. In a statement, the group said that it’s up to parents, not the government, to police teens’ use of tanning beds.

“The indoor tanning industry is heavily regulated at both the federal and state levels and our customers are well aware of the potential risks of over exposure. The decision regarding whether or not a teen suntans, whether indoors or outside is a decision for his/her parents, not the government.”

Do you think the FDA is right to ban teens from using indoor tanning beds? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image via Shutterstock/dennnis]