Tanning beds carry a cancer risk, especially for the young

WASHINGTON — It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer, and for a lot of people that means working on their tans. But if you’re 18 or under, the Food and Drug Administration has new warnings about the effects about tanning beds.

The FDA has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but for the first time the agency is requiring manufacturers to warn consumers about the cancer risks of indoor tanning.

Makers of sunlamps and related devices must include a prominent label, known as a “black box” warning, on their devices, stating they should not be used by people under 18.

“These tanning beds really increase the risk of skin cancer, especially in teens, where melanoma rates are really rising over last few years,” says Boston Globe health blogger Deborah Kotz.

Manufacturers also must provide more warnings about cancer risks in pamphlets, catalogues and websites that promote their products. Those materials must warn that the devices shouldn’t be used by people who have had skin cancer or have a family history of the disease. While many think that tanning beds are safer than being out in the sun, they are not.

A lot of people don’t use SPF protection when using tanning beds.

Kotz says it is “the act of tanning and getting exposure to that UV radiation, which is those sun lamps, that can be dangerous.”

In 2009, Howard County, Maryland, became the first jurisdiction to ban people 18 and under from tanning beds without a prescription.

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WTOP’s Lori Lundin contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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