A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal would move indoor tanning beds from a list of low-risk devices and reclassify them as having moderate risk. Right now, the machines are in the same category as Band-Aids.
Federal health regulators also want to add a warning label to discourage teens from using tanning beds.
“We do a very good job of educating our kids about tobacco use and alcohol use and drug use,” said Jefferson University Hospital oncologist Kendra Feeney. “But very rarely is tanning bed use discussed with high school students. Oftentimes, those kids are the ones using tanning beds to get ready for prom and parties and the like.”
A representative of the Indoor Tanning Association said it welcomes label changes that educate people about overexposure.
“However, we are concerned that the proposed requirements will burden our members with additional unnecessary governmental costs in an already difficult economic climate,” the association added in a written statement.
Supporters of more oversight often cite a study that found a 75 percent increase in melanoma risk for people who’d had frequent exposure to UV rays before age 35. The Indoor Tanning Association points to flaws in that investigation and complained that it is a driving force behind the push for tighter regulations.
At the state level, regulations vary widely.
In Delaware, children under 14 are prohibited from using commercial tanning beds; teens 14 to 17 need permission from a parent. New Jersey passed a law in April banning anyone age 17 or younger from using the tanning bed.
Oncologist Feeney cares for patients with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. She said she supports the FDA’s bid to add a caution for teens.
“Definitely we’ve seen over the years an increased number of younger patients, and I find more and more when I take their history, oftentimes tanning use has played a role,” Feeney said.