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No More Tanning Beds for Teens, FDA Says

The Short of It

New rules proposed by the FDA would prohibit anyone younger than 18 from using a tanning bed.

The Lowdown

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there's no safe level of tanning bed use for young people. Still, almost 13 percent of high school students, 17 percent of teens overall, and 59 percent of college students say they've gotten an indoor tan.

Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed that American teenagers be banned from using tanning beds. The proposal would also require users 18 and older to sign a document that says they are aware of the health risks posed by the beds.

"There is no safe level of tanning bed use for young people," said Dr. Sandra G. Hassink, president of the AAP, in a statement. "Studies show that beginning tanning before age 35 can increase the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, by 75 percent. Alarmingly, the earlier a teen begins to tan indoors, the more hours of UV exposure he or she will accumulate over a lifetime, increasing the chances of developing melanoma and other skin cancers."

The Upshot

This is scary stuff. I probably spent half of my senior year of high school in a tanning bed, although that was way back in the late 80s before we knew better. Yet despite what we now know about the dangers of indoor tanning—to be clear, the guidelines are for UV exposure, not spray tans—their use among teenagers continues to rise, said the AAP.

"Tanning is glamorized in the media and has been touted as providing false medical benefits, such as safely boosting vitamin D levels," said Hassink. "Tanning salons currently open their doors and promote their services to teenagers under age 18, contributing to a false sense of safety and appeal in artificial tanning. The FDA's action today is part of ensuring a safe environment for every child and adolescent, and sends a loud and clear message: tanning beds are dangerous and should not be used by anyone under age 18."

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