The FDA wants to ban use of tanning beds by youth under 18, to fight skin cancer

The Food and Drug Administration today proposed banning the use of indoor tanning beds by minors under 18 years old, to try and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Indoor tanning beds dramatically increase your risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology says your risk goes up by 59 percent when you tan indoors regularly. Lots of young people do it, too: about 1.6 million minors tan indoors each year, according to a 2013 federal youth health survey.

Here's a snip from the FDA announcement:

In addition, the effects of exposure to UV radiation add up over one's lifetime. Therefore, UV radiation exposure in children and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life.

The FDA is issuing two proposed rules today. The first proposed rule would restrict use of sunlamp products to individuals 18 and older. In addition, before their first tanning session and every six months thereafter, adult users over age 18 would have to sign a risk acknowledgement certification that states that they have been informed of the risks to health that may result from use of sunlamp products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of more than 3,000 emergency department room visits occur for injuries related to indoor tanning each year in the U.S. (based on 2003-2012 data).

The FDA also issued a second proposed rule today that would require that sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities take additional measures to improve the overall safety of these devices. Specifically, some of the key proposed changes would include:

making warnings easier to read and more prominent on the device;
requiring an emergency shut off switch, or "panic button";
improving eye safety by adding requirements that would limit the amount of light allowed through protective eyewear;
improving labeling on replacement bulbs so tanning facility operators can make sure they are using the proper replacement bulbs, reducing the risk of accidental burns; and
prohibiting dangerous device modifications, like installing stronger bulbs, without re-certifying and re-identifying the device with the FDA.

"The FDA understands that some adults may decide to continue to use sunlamp products," continued acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. "These proposed rules are meant to help adults make their decisions based on truthful information and to ensure manufacturers and tanning facilities take additional steps to improve the safety of these devices."

The proposed device restriction would apply to manufacturers and tanning facility operators. There are approximately 18,000 to 19,000 indoor tanning salons and 15,000 to 20,000 other facilities, such as health clubs, spas, and other commercial establishments, that offer tanning services in the U.S. The FDA has information for consumers and businesses via the Division of Industry and Consumer Education (DICE). Also, additional guidance and information for industry is included in the proposed rules.

The proposed restriction and updated performance standards are two of the latest steps the Department of Health and Human Services is taking to reduce the risks associated with skin cancer. In July 2014, the Office of the Surgeon General issued a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, which included strategies for reducing indoor tanning among minors.

Here's a related New York Times article.

The proposed rules are available online at for public comment for 90 days.