Indoor tanning bans more common than a decade ago

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More and more countries, along with several U.S. states, are banning indoor tanning altogether or restricting access to it, according to a new study.

The researchers found that between 2003 and 2011, the number of countries with age restrictions on indoor tanning jumped from two to 11. During that time, the number of U.S. states restricting access also increased from three to 11.

“I think this shows a concern around the world, (a push) for more regulations on these instruments and more recognition of the dangers from using them,” said Dr. Robert Dellavalle, one of the study’s authors from the University of Colorado, Denver.

Dellavalle and his colleagues write in the Archives of Dermatology that several health organizations and medical associations have come out - in one form or another - against indoor tanning in recent years. Those include the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology.

In 2009, WHO labeled tanning devices as a high-level carcinogen, which puts tanning on par with tobacco use. Birth control pills, however, are also on that list.

In 2007, a working group affiliated with WHO found people who used tanning beds before their 30th birthday were 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. That increase, however, is relative. The actual increase is smaller.

For example, a past study showed 24 out of 10,000 women who regularly used tanning beds developed melanoma compared to 17 out 10,000 women who rarely or never used them.


According to the authors of the new study, the recognition from the various organizations and associations paved the way for legislatures to implement bans and other restrictions on indoor tanning.

To see how restrictions and bans changed from 2003 to 2011, the researchers compiled a list of which U.S. states and countries around the world enacted legislation on tanning beds.

In 2003, Brazil and France restricted access to tanning beds for those under 18 years old. By 2011, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Belgium, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland joined them by enacting restrictions.

Brazil, the researchers note, moved to a total ban on indoor tanning for people of all ages and the U.S. implemented a 10 percent tax on tanning services as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

As for U.S. states, Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas had already restricted access for kids by 2003. They were joined by another eight states by 2011, which brought the total number to 12 with the addition of Vermont earlier this year, according to Dellavalle.

More than 20 other states require a parent’s consent before a minor uses a tanning bed, the researchers write.


In an editorial accompanying the new study, Dr. Steven Wang and Lucy Chen from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, write that states can issue three types of restrictions.

States can require a parent’s consent, a parent to accompany a minor to a tanning parlor or to restrict access based on age altogether, wrote Wang and Chen.

“I think whether or not a teenager gets a suntan is a decision for his or her parents. I don’t think the state should come in and make those decisions for parents,” said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, which represents tanning device manufacturers, distributors and facilities.

Dr. June K. Robinson, a research professor of dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told Reuters Health that she believes parental consent laws hold little value.

“Parents may not even know that the child went to the indoor tanning parlor,” she said, adding that kids can forge a parent’s signature or possibly reuse a legitimate note. But Robinson, who is also the editor of the Archives of Dermatology, said she believes there are more laws restricting access to tanning beds on the way in the U.S.

“I believe what we are now seeing is other states are jumping on the bandwagon and we’re going to see more restrictions,” she said, but added that it will most likely happen state by state.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever see a federal law,” she said.

SOURCE: Archives of Dermatology, July 2012.