The Food and Drug Administration is proposing rules that would ban anyone under age 18 from using tanning beds because of the risk of skin cancer. While fewer teens are using tanning beds, there are still about 1.6 million under age 18 who do so each year, according to a government survey. The FDA is also strengthening the warnings that are required on tanning beds.
Using indoor tanning devices increases the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, by 59%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Other groups put the increase in risk at about 20%.
About a third of adults in the United States say they have ever used a tanning bed, with the majority of them being women. Several states have already banned the use of tanning beds by children and teens; About 40 states have some sort of restrictions in place, but public health officials want a national ban. The incidence rate of melanoma in women under 40 has risen by a third since the early 1990s, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The FDA proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. It recommended that tanning beds not be used by people under the age of 18 in 2013, but stopped short of banning them. There are as many as 19,000 indoor tanning salons in the United States and as many as 20,000 other facilities that offer tanning services, according to the FDA.
"Today's action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms," said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the acting FDA commissioner. "Individuals under 18 are at greatest risk of the adverse health consequences of indoor tanning."
The FDA also proposed requiring that adults sign a document saying they understand the risks of using a tanning bed, and requiring tanning beds have easier-to-read warning labels and emergency shut-off switches.
The Indoor Tanning Association issued a statement saying that the industry is already heavily regulated and that people using the beds are aware of the potential risks of using them.