California Bans Indoor Tanning for Minors: A Dermatologist’s Reaction

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Earlier this month the state of California passed legislation to prohibit minors (anyone under the age of 18) from using tanning beds. This law, which will go into effect beginning January 1st of the new year, is the first of its kind as it prohibits children and teens from indoor tanning even with a parent’s permission. While national health organizations such as the American Academy of Dermatology are praising this ban, tanning salon owners are none too pleased. Some say the ban hurts business but most skin cancer experts and health professionals say that this law will save lives. One of the proponents of the bill, State Senator, Ted Lieu, cited statistics in a recent New York Times article that one of the leading causes of cancer deaths of young women (between the ages of 25-34) is skin cancer. One way to prevent skin cancer is to limit one’s exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays. In a previous article I wrote about the large scale study (approximately 2,300 subjects) where researchers found that tanning bed users are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than people who never use tanning beds.  We have been consistent here on SkinCancerConnection with the message that the use of tanning beds increases your chances for developing skin cancer and especially melanoma, the most potentially deadly of skin cancers.

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    We have asked our consulting dermatologist, Dr. Lawrence Green, a practicing dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine, to share his reaction to the California tanning bed ban for minors.


    To find out more about Dr. Green please visit his website: Aesthetics, Skin Care, and Dermasurgery.

    Q: What is your opinion of the California ban on tanning bed usage for minors?


    Dr. Green: I am pleased, as are many of the members of the dermatology community, that the state of California banned tanning bed use in minors. So many people don’t know how dangerous tanning bed use is. A few years ago, the World Health Organization classified tanning beds as a Class 1 carcinogen. The WHO classified tanning beds as such after so much evidence was accumulated that regular tanning bed use among teenagers can increase the chance of getting melanoma cancer, which is the deadliest of all skin cancers. Classifying tanning beds as a Class 1 carcinogen places tanning in the same danger level as cigarette smoke-which is also something that you are not allowed to do if you are under 18. It is every dermatologist’s (and probably every physician’s) hope that all states follow the lead of California and classify tanning in the same category as cigarette smoking.


    Q: Are there any other states that are considering similar legislation to prohibit minors from using tanning beds?


    Dr. Green: I believe in 2011 at least 9 or 10 other states considered bills just like California’s where tanning bed use in minors was prohibited. I cannot say what happened in most states, but I can tell you what happened in my home state of Maryland, where I was involved in speaking to the state legislature about approving a similar bill. Both the House and Senate in Maryland considered prohibiting tanning bed use in minors earlier this year, both we fell just short of convincing a majority of legislators in the committees that heard the bill to pass it. It is my hope that many in 2012 many states, including Maryland, will follow California’s lead and prohibit tanning bed use in minors.


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    Q: What are the dangers associated with tanning bed usage?


    Dr. Green: Tanning beds can not only increase someone’s risk of getting skin cancer, but with enough use, they also age your skin and help create wrinkles and other changes of sun aging. Tanning beds do this because they emit Ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation damages DNA where it lands. With enough repeated UV exposure, the body can no longer fix the damaged DNA and permanent DNA damage results. This permanent DNA damage is the cause of wrinkles and eventually skin cancer. Tanning beds primarily contain Ultraviolet A radiation. These are the longest wavelength rays of light in the Ultraviolet category. By physically being the longest, these UVA rays can penetrate the deepest into your skin and wreak the deepest damage.


    Thank you Dr. Green for discussing this timely topic with us!


    For more information about the association between tanning beds and skin cancer please refer to the following Health Central articles and resources:


    A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions about Tanning

    More Scientific Evidence Linking Tanning Bed Usage with Melanoma 


    Tanning Salons and Vitamin D Hype

Published On: October 30, 2011