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Archive for March 29th, 2010

Protect Young Women from Tanning Beds

Okay, girls, fess up…

The captain of the football team just asked you out and you decide you want to look “extra special.”  So, you make an appointment at your local health club to use the tanning bed.  Sound familiar?     

Well, if it does, then the next time you think about enhancing that tan, think again. 

Last year, the World Health Organization declared that tanning beds cause skin cancer, finding that people who used them in their early years had a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.  And, the vast majority of people who get cancer from tanning beds are women.  As a result, the WHO moved ultraviolet tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category, along with arsenic and cigarettes.

In response to this growing problem, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration recently recommended imposing tougher controls on tanning beds.  Some are suggesting an outright ban of the devices for teens under the age of 18.  Heck, even the Congress has recognized the potential danger and recently imposed a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning salons as part of the healthcare bill. 

These devices, unlike natural sunlight, focus ultraviolet radiation directly to your skin.  So, contrary to the popular notion that you are getting a “healthy tan,” the skin is actually getting damaged.  UV exposure is cumulative over a lifetime; so the greater one’s exposure, the greater the risk for developing a skin cancer.

Although the FDA does not have to follow the advice of their advisory panel, it traditionally does. They will take the next few months to go over the recommendations before making a final decision. 

From my perspective, I say we should prohibit teenagers from using these machines.  I realize there is a lot of pressure on a young girl to get that “movie star” look and a 17 year old generally doesn’t consider the long term consequences of his or her acts. They are certainly not thinking of cancer at that age or about how excessive tanning leads to premature aging (leathery appearance and wrinkling) that is decidedly NOT healthy in appearance.

Still, there is no upside to tanning beds. 

Young girls in particular need protection.  Let’s hope the FDA does the right thing.

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