To tan or not to tan: An important decision

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solariumMemorial Day is past, and summer is upon us and so is tanning season. Many people like to get their first tans at indoor tanning salons so they can avoid looking pale on their first beach outing. But according to a new advisory from the FDA, such preliminary tanning may be a poor idea.

In a recent advisory, the FDA warns consumers that the UV rays emitted by sunlamps and tanning beds are dangerous just as UV rays from the sun are. Among the health dangers of any UV radiation sources are skin cancers and burns, premature skin aging, and possible eye damage.

The agency cited a review stating that the risk of melanoma, far and away the most dangerous cancer of the skin, increased by 75 percent if tanning bed use began before age 35. FDA also notes that 68,000 people in the US are expected to develop melanoma this year, and typically one in eight will die of the disease.

Since cancer can take many years to develop, the FDA is particularly concerned about young people s exposure to UV radiation, and recommends that tanning beds and sunlamps not be used by anyone under 18 years of age.

According to a report by CNN, the FDA has now changed the labeling requirements from low-risk to moderate-risk for equipment used in indoor tanning salons and sunlamp products. In addition, the agency now requires a so-called black box warning that such products should not by used by those under 18 years of age, and the warning must be visible to consumers. This move doesn t mean that the devices are not allowed, but that consumers must be notified of the possible consequences of their use.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava noted, Melanoma is not a condition to be taken lightly to date there are no effective treatments for it aside from extensive surgical excision, and it can be fatal. It is especially concerning that UV-emitting devices are attractive to young people who may not be attentive to the long-term health risks of their use. She continued, Parents should be particularly aware of these risks and endeavor to make their children aware of them as well.

For more information on making summer fun less hazardous, see ACSH s newly-updated annual, Summer Tips, here.