There is substantial evidence that indoor tanning is associated with increased risk of skin cancer – the most common type of cancer nationwide according to the American Cancer Society. Public health officials and researchers have become increasingly concerned about the health risks posed by indoor tanning.
Researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey recently addressed the importance of increasing efforts to limit indoor tanning among minors in a viewpoint paper published in the April 28 2021 online edition of JAMA Dermatology.
Carolyn J. Heckman, PhD, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is corresponding author and shares some insight.
Why is legislation limiting indoor tanning important – especially for minors?
Skin cancer can be disfiguring, debilitating, and deadly, but it is largely preventable. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning (and the sun) is a well-established carcinogen that causes most skin cancers.
Research has shown that even one session of indoor tanning at a young age greatly increases risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Studies have also shown that compared to bans, less restrictive types of legislation such as requiring parental consent or accompaniment are not effective because they are not well-enforced, and many parents do not fully understand the risks of indoor tanning.
What are the key challenges you describe relating to regulations for indoor tanning?
Even when there is legislation addressing indoor tanning restrictions, resources for enforcement may be inadequate. Additionally, some people take part in indoor tanning in facilities other than tanning salons that may not be as well-regulated.
For example, several large gym chains offer indoor tanning. Calling these facilities "fitness" or "health" clubs is a misnomer when they offer indoor tanning. Many people do not understand that this practice poses health risks and some even think that it is healthful.
What do you hope to achieve through this work and what is the takeaway message?
We are hopeful that FDA's proposed rule to federally ban indoor tanning for minors will be enacted this year, after being on hold during the last administration. In the meantime, we can all educate our family and friends (particularly young women) about the risks of indoor tanning and advocate for stricter legislation and enforcement of regulations on this carcinogen.
Heckman, C. J., et al. (2021) A Call to Action to Eliminate Indoor Tanning. JAMA Dermatology. doi.org/10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.0874.