Love the look of a suntanned body? Lots of people do, particularly young women and teens. But, that tanned body comes with a higher risk of skin cancer according to the American Academy of Dermatology and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
That's why the FDA is changing its regulation of sunlamp products and UV lamps intended for use in sunlamp products. The changes strengthen the oversight of these devices, and require that sunlamp products carry a visible, black box warning stating that they should not be used on people under the age of 18.
Previously, the products were listed as low-risk. The new category raises the risk to moderate.
Even though the new warning is now mandatory, it is not against the law for minors to use tanning booths and sunlamps, although a few states have gone ahead and banned the use of indoor tanning salons for people under the age of 18.
The American Academy of Dermatology says studies have shown people who have been exposed to UV rays from indoor tanning have a 59% increase of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
"The FDA has taken an important step today to address the risk to public health from sunlamp products," said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "Repeated UV exposure from sunlamp products poses a risk of skin cancer for all users, but the highest risk for skin cancer is in young persons under the age of 18 and people with a family history of skin cancer."
This change is due to concerns that the effects of UV radiation add up over time, and children and teenagers who are exposed to indoor UV radiation are at greater risk for skin and eye damage.
"There is increasing evidence that tanning in childhood to early adult life increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma," says FDA dermatologist Markham Luke, M.D., Ph.D. In fact, according to an overview of studies published in the journal Pediatrics, melanoma is the second most common cancer in women in their 20s and the third most common cancer in men in their 20s in the U.S.
Luke adds that many experts believe that at least one reason is the increased use of sunlamp products by U.S. teenagers and young adults.
Not everyone believes sunlamps that emit UV rays cause skin cancer or health problems.
Representatives for the Indoor Tanning Association say they are disappointed in the reclassification. "I just don't think the science is there," said John Overstreet, executive director of the association. "I think it's blown out of proportion. We are obviously disappointed in the FDA's latest moves."
Others believe that the FDA is over-stepping its boundaries. Tanning salon advocates say parents should be making the decision about whether their children are allowed to use tanning salons and sunlamps and that this is just the first step toward government control over what should be parental choices.
The FDA overview suggest that doses of UV radiation emitted by high pressure sunlamp products may be up to 10 to 15 times higher than that of the midday sun, an intensity not found in nature. UV-A radiation penetrates to the deeper layers of the skin and is often associated with allergic reactions, such as a rash. This is not to say that outdoor tanning is safe. In fact, the World Health Organization has classified all UV radiation as a carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Skin cancer is not the only possible side effect of UV rays. The rays may also age the skin prematurely causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity of the skin.
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