Skin Cancer Prevention

Avoiding indoor tanning devices prevents excess exposure to UV radiation and the risk of skin cancer. Yet teenagers and young
adults are tanning at higher rates than their older counterparts, making melanoma the fourth most common cancer among young
men and women aged 15-29 years.

The Facts

  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, from the sun and indoor tanning devices cause skin cancer as well as eye damage and premature aging of the skin:
  • Because a young person’s skin is still developing it makes them even more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV rays;
  • Severe sunburn during childhood significantly increases the risk of melanoma later in life;
  • Using a tanning device before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59 percent;
  •  Using a tanning device also increases the chance of squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent. The risk for these cancers is increased to 102 percent and 40 percent respectively when a tanning device is used before age 25;
  • The rate of indoor tanning device use increases drastically as high school girls grow older, from 12.9 percent among 9th graders to 27.2 percent among 12th graders;
  • Tanning is highest among young non-Hispanic white women, with 1 out of every 3 aged 16-25 years having tanned in the past 12 months, and many indicating they do so frequently;
  • Among teens who tanned, 58 percent reported getting a burn from a tanning device within the past year;
  • An estimated 3,200 emergency room cases each year can be attributed to indoor tanning devices;
  • The dangers of tanning devices are so serious that the World Health Organization has put these in the same category as tobacco and asbestos, marking them as “carcinogenic to humans”;

 Factors that Increase Youth Tanning

  • Youth get incorrect and false information from the indoor tanning industry about the risks of tanning;
  • A 2012 congressional committee report showed that tanning salons often deny the risks of tanning and indicate it is beneficial to a young person’s health;
  • In 2010 the Federal Trade Commission settled with the Indoor Tanning Association regarding false health and safety claims;
  •  Indoor tanning salons do not always follow recommended guidelines. For instance, 71 percent of tanning salons would allow a teen to tan more often than the 3 times per week recommended by the federal government;

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found many factors that increase tanning among younger people. Youth were more likely to use a tanning device if they:

  • Believed people with a tan look more attractive (80 percent more likely);
  • Believed that their parents allowed them to use indoor tanning (80 percent more likely);
  • Had a parent who used indoor tanning (70 percent more likely);
  • Noticed advertisements for indoor tanning (70 percent more likely);
  • Had a parent who believed people with a tan are more attractive (50 percent more likely);
  •  Lived within two miles of at least one indoor tanning facility (40 percent more likely);

Addressing the Problem – The Importance of Age Restrictions

Several organizations are in favor of restricting access to tanning devices among persons under the age of 18. These include the

  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization among others;
  • Restricting access to tanning devices is consistent with other policies that protect youth from harmful products and substances like tobacco and alcohol;
  • In May 2014, the United States Food and Drug Administration reclassified tanning devices from a Class I to a Class II device. As part of the additional restrictions, device manufactures will have to include a visible black box warning stating that people younger than age 18 years should not use the devices;
  • The Surgeon General released a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer in July, 2014. A goal of the report is to “Reduce Harms from Indoor Tanning” citing five main strategies. Two of these strategies are to “Support organizational policies that discourage
  • indoor tanning by adolescents and young adults” and “Enforce existing indoor tanning laws and consider adopting additional restrictions.”;
  • States across the country are protecting youth by passing and implementing comprehensive laws which restrict minors’ use of tanning beds.;
  • In fact, states that have indoor tanning laws have a lower teen tanning rate then states with no laws;
  • Internationally, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have restricted access to tanning beds for everyone under age 18. Brazil and New South Wales, Australia have banned tanning altogether.