Call to Outlaw Tanning Bed Use Among Teens

Posted on March 16th, 2011 by

The American Academy of Pediatrics has called to legally ban tanning bed use among children and teenagers, citing the increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers associated with artificial tanning. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement, which appeals for the ban, was released in Pediatrics.

Tanning beds pose of a particularly high risk of skin cancer, with people who use them at a young age facing a 75% higher risk of melanoma than people who don’t, according to a previous study. Furthermore, artificial tanning lamps and beds generate up to 10 to 15 times more damaging UV light than sunlight.

It’s estimated that most sun exposure occurs before the age of 18, making childhood and adolescence critical times to prevent skin cancer. Restrictions on use of tanning parlors among young people currently exist in more than 60% of U.S. states. More action, however, is needed—as many as one-third of 17-year-old girls report having been to a tanning facility.

In addition to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization are also calling to ban tanning among minors. As well, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has discussed the possibility of a federal ban.

Pediatricians recognize, however, that outdoor play remains a healthy activity for children. Use of sunscreen, protective clothing, and hats with brims as well as avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. can help protect against sun damage. Pediatricians add that because the body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, sun protection for young people may need to be accompanied by healthy diets and vitamin supplements.

Reference: Ultraviolet Radiation: A Hazard to Children and Adolescents [policy statement]. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics [early online publication]. March 1, 2011.

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