It’s summertime! Many kids are excited that the warmer weather means a few months off school and a change in daily routine. This often includes time at the pool with friends, which can motivate teens to want to look their best. For some, this means having a tan, and many teens will head to the tanning salons to darken their skin and achieve a bronze “summer glow.” However, the use of tanning beds has been associated with deadly forms of skin cancer, and kids and teens are at the highest risk. It is time for pediatricians to encourage lawmakers to create legislation protecting children from these dangers.
What are the dangers?
- Studies have shown that people exposed to ultraviolet light from tanning beds have a 75% increased risk of melanoma skin cancer
- Tanning beds have a nearly 70% increased risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma (another form of skin cancer)
- The production of harmful ultraviolet light is 10-15 times higher from some tanning beds than from the midday sun
- The risk of skin cancer increases with each use of a tanning bed
How common is it?
- Nearly 1/3 of all Caucasian teenage females have used a tanning bed in the last year
- The rates of tanning bed use increase steadily each year of high school for teenage girls
At this time, there is no federal legislation restricting the use of tanning beds by children. So far thirteen states, including Texas and California, have enacted state laws prohibiting their use by children under age 18, but the remaining states either have no restrictions for children or have prohibited tanning bed use only for those under the age of 14. Most teens start using tanning beds around the age of 14, so these laws do not protect those most likely to encounter the dangers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Dermatology and the World Health Organization all support the prohibition of tanning beds for children under age 18. Pediatricians should raise awareness for this critical issue by educating teens and their families about the dangers of indoor tanning. You can encourage your state and federal representatives to create legislation to protect our kids from the dangers of tanning beds and acquiring skin cancer in the future.
Shelby Brenan, MD, MPH