News | Published June 30, 2014

New tanning bed warnings, age restrictions

Tara Shapich, PA-C, internal medicine, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Indoor tanning beds and sun lamps will now have posted warnings advising against use by patrons under the age of 18.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated tanning machines for more than 30 years, but now the agency is requiring manufacturers to warn customers about the risks of cancer associated with these radiation-emitting devices.

The manufacturers will be required to place bolded age restrictions on the machines, as well as cancer warning risks in pamphlets and online sites that promote indoor tanning. The mandates come as the federal government works to curb rising cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The FDA is also requiring that manufacturers meet safety and design requirements, which include time limits for tanning.

According to Tara Shapich, PA-C, internal medicine, Mount Nittany Physician Group, ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from artificial sources such as tanning beds are known to have cancer-causing properties.

“Nearly 30 million people use tanning beds or other forms of artificial tanning each year in the United States, and a large portion are young teens and college students,” said Shapich. “Many states are beginning to pass laws that prohibit those under the age of 18 from indoor tanning because it’s so dangerous.”

Pennsylvania has recently passed legislation banning those 16 and under from indoor using tanning devices, and a 17-year-old must have parental consent. But in other areas of the country, laws are lax.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, but there are easy options for protection against harmful UV radiation.

“Protect yourself by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen, staying in the shade between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest, wearing a wide hat and clothes that cover your arms and legs, and most importantly, avoiding indoor tanning,” said Shapich.