Agencies consider age-based bans on indoor tanning devices

By Isaac Heller • Published: August 28th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Tanning beds could be added to the list of activities with age restrictions… like the use of alcohol, tobacco and firearms… if the Food and Drug Administration acts on the concerns of a growing number of parents and experts who cite their link to cancer.

Indoor tanning is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers. In 2013, nearly 2 million high school students said they had used tanning devices within the last year, according to a Harvard University-led study, a number experts say they expect is growing. More than half of indoor tanners start before age 21, research shows, and a third start tanning before age 18.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using indoor tanning devices before age 35 can increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 59 percent, and the risk grows with each use. Women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors. Researchers estimate that 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year are caused by indoor tanning.

Thirteen states have already banned indoor tanning for people younger than 18 and 12 other states have bans on indoor tanning for other ages. Seventeen states have policies requiring a parent’s permission for a child to tan indoors. The FDA is now considering whether to ban indoor tanning for those under age 18.

The results of the Harvard study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, show there is broad support for such restrictions among parents of adolescents, even among adults who reported having recently used indoor tanning devices themselves. The researchers said given such support, age-based bans should be prioritized as the way to protect the nation’s youth from this common and preventable form of cancer.