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FDA proposes banning minors from tanning beds

By Tess Sohngen, Senior Staff Writer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposal restricting minors from sunlamp products like tanning beds on Dec. 22, 2015.

The proposal comes in response to findings that early exposure to tanning beds results in higher risk of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Melanoma especially affects users under 18 years old, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. Another study published in JAVA Dermatology on Jan. 20 found that teenagers using indoor tanning are at higher risks of substance abuse.

"What is really frightening, and that most people don't realize, is that high intensity UVR [ultraviolet radiation], such as that from tanning beds, causes direct chemical modification of your DNA in your skin cells," said Rick Page, an assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Miami University.

Whether the damaged DNA results in a minor or major problem, like melanoma, is up to chance, said Page.

"There really isn't such a thing as 'safe' UVR," said Page. "Any UVR exposure has the chance of causing DNA damage. The key is to limit your exposure."

Fifty-nine percent of college students and 17 percent of teens in the United States reported using a tanning bed at least once, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Caucasian teenagers and young women make up 70 percent of tanning salon customers, according to the AAD, and have increasing rates of melanoma. A study in Minnesota found that the number of first cases of melanoma for people 18 to 39 years old increased eight-fold for women - double the increase for males.

"I tanned a lot more in high school, but I realize it's bad for my health," said junior Katie Tullis. "I try and limit it to a couple times a year."

Tullis has gone to Palm Beach Tan in Oxford for the past few months and has also gone to Attitudes Uptown for indoor tanning. She said she uses indoor tanning only before she travels somewhere warm to avoid burning from direct UV rays from the sun.

Attitudes Uptown requires parent permission for minors before they can use an indoor tanning bed, which will become a legal requirement in Ohio in March.

"I personally wouldn't want my child to [tan indoors]," said Kristi Abrams, a stylist who has worked at Attitudes Uptown for five years. "But I honestly think it should be up to the parent or guardian."

Attitudes Uptown follows the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology by requiring their patrons wear protective eyewear and sign a waiver before they use a tanning bed.

The proposal from the FDA also includes new safety regulations for indoor tanning, such as requiring users' signature of risk acknowledgment associated with indoor tanning.

"I know high schoolers I went to school with are already dealing with skin cancer, and that's a huge issue that we actually need to look out for," said Tullis.

The public has until March 22 to comment on the proposal before the FDA decides whether to publish it as a rule in the Federal Register.