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ACP Supports Legislation Targeting Safety of Indoor Tanning

College joins with dermatologists and others to call attention to dangers

By Morganna Freeman-Keller, DO
ACP Health Policy Intern

The American Academy of Dermatology held a Capitol Hill briefing May 3 on "Raising Skin Cancer Awareness and the Dangers of Indoor Tanning," kicking off Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. ACP and AAD currently support the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act, a bill co-sponsored by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

AAD President Dr. Ron Moy commented "this is the first time physician groups have come together" to address the public health issue of the dangers of indoor tanning. Along with the AAD and ACP, the American Osteopathic Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have joined to support this legislation. "UV radiation is classified as the same strength of carcinogen as tobacco and asbestos," he said, yet there is little public knowledge about the dangers of tanning bed use.

In a separate statement, ACP President Dr. Virginia Hood admonished, "We need to continue educating patients about the risks of indoor tanning and encouraging healthy decisions to help prevent skin cancer." ACP supports restrictions against use of tanning devices by minors, and advises a Surgeon Generals warning that UV radiation can cause skin cancer should be placed publicly in all tanning establishments.

Congressman Dent focused particularly on the risk of melanoma in young women, the largest consumer of tanning services. "Young women are more likely to die of this cancer than any other," he said, citing statistics showing melanoma is the number one cancer amongst young adults aged 25 to 29. Pressure by the "tan is healthy" misconception, coupled with a lack of awareness of the dangers of indoor tanning, has contributed to the widespread use of tanning salons among young women. "The FDA currently classifies tanning beds as medical devices [with the same danger profile] as Band-Aids and tongue depressors."

Congressman Dent's goal is to change legislation to make tanning beds reclassified as Class II or III medical devices by the FDA to assign them higher risk profiles. The bill also calls for the FDA to implement enhanced labeling requirements for tanning beds. In a recent survey, more than 40 percent of indoor tanners reported that they have never been warned about the dangers of tanning beds from salon employees.

The presentation prompted questions about whether physicians should include screening for tanning bed use along with alcohol and tobacco, given their carcinogenic potential. Unfortunately, the United States Preventive Services Task Force states there is not enough data to encourage primary care physicians to screen for tanning bed use, as they would for alcohol or tobacco. A representative from AAD went on to say that although some states have age limits or require signed consent before tanning, "there is no consensus on regulation." The shared hope of the physician organizations is that this new legislation, along with a strong public health initiative, would promote awareness of the dangers of indoor tanning.

More information

More information on the briefing is available on the AAD website.