The FDA wants to ban indoor tanning for people under the age of 18, but the machines pose a serious threat to people of all ages.
Tanning beds have become extremely popular in recent years, offering an inexpensive solution for people looking to get some color in the dark winter months. Tanning beds are not without risk, however, and public health officials are finally speaking out about their dangers.
We reported earlier that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wanted to ban the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 18. “Today’s action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms,” wrote FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indoor tanning is definitively not safe. Using sunlamps to tan the skin can lead to cancers including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to cataracts and ocular melanoma.
There are two different types of ultraviolet radiation that people are likely to encounter if they hop in a tanning bed. UVA and UVB rays both damage skin and can result in the development of a wide range of skin cancers. Younger people are at a particularly high risk of developing melanoma, likely due to the prolonged exposure over extended periods of time from beginning at a young age.
Indoor tanning can also lead to premature signs of aging, including skin wrinkles and spots. Sun lamps can alter the skin’s texture, and significantly increase the risk of eye damage.
Some people believe that tanning indoors is safer than tanning in the sun, but this is untrue. While tanning machines can allow users to more accurately control the time spent exposed to UV radiation, the intensity of the light is much higher than it is standing under the sun outside.
Tanning altogether is the body’s way of signifying skin damage from UV rays. Even a base tan intended to protect cells against the sun can result in long-lasting damage.
A 2014 study estimated that over 400,000 cases of skin cancers were linked to indoor tanning in the U.S., including 245,000 cases of basal cell carcinomas, 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas, and 6,000 cases of melanoma. Roughly 13 percent of all high school students in the U.S. reported using indoor tanning machines, and there are currently no regulations preventing these teens from using sun lamps.
The FDA’s proposed guidelines can be found here.