Indoor UV tanning beds are known carcinogens that are responsible for many cases of skin cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the U.S. A recently issued Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer from the U.S. Surgeon General states that "more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer [8% of the total], about 6,000 of which are melanomas, are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the U.S. each year" while "nearly 1 out of every 3 young white women engages in indoor tanning each year," making indoor tanning a serious public health issue.
In a JAMA opinion piece published yesterday, Darren Mays, PhD, MPH, from the Georgetown University Medical Center's Department of Oncology, and John Kraemer, JD, MPH, from Georgetown's School of Nursing and Health Studies, argued that the FDA needs to step up its regulatory approach and restrict access to this technology - due to its limited therapeutic benefits and known damaging effects.
In 2011, California was the first state to ban access to indoor UV tanning beds to minors. The authors assert that "state-level policies restricting a minor's access to indoor tanning devices are effectively reducing the prevalence of this cancer risk behavior among youth," but argue that regulation at the federal level is in order:
Like tobacco products, a national regulatory framework designed to prevent and reduce indoor tanning could reduce public health burden and financial costs of skin cancer. ...from a public health perspective the indoor tanning device regulations are not commensurate to those of other regulated products that are known carcinogens with very little or no therapeutic benefit.
However, the likelihood of this regulation taking place is questionable:
FDA did not leverage its authority last year to put a broader regulatory framework in place, which could have included a national minimum age requirement and stronger indoor tanning device warning labels... Critical factors seem to be aligning for such policy change to take place, but additional momentum is needed to promote change at a national scale. The US national political environment makes more expansive regulation by either FDA or Congress seem unlikely in the near future.
The authors concluded with a call for organizations other than governments to help build momentum on toward a "national indoor tanning prevention policy." For example, they said, universities could implement "tan-free" campus policies similar to the "tobacco-free" campaign.
Previously: More evidence on the link between indoor tanning and cancers, Medical experts question the safety of spray-on tanning products, Time for teens to stop tanning?, Senator Ted Lieu weighs in on tanning bed legislation and A push to keep minors away from tanning beds
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