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Ban on Tanning Bed Use by Minors Urged

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People under 18 may no longer be able to use tanning beds, if the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) follows the advice of an advisory panel it convened yesterday.

Members of the panel agreed that the devices should be reclassified, and said that more restrictions are needed to protect teenagers from the cancer risks of tanning beds. “Given the absence of any demonstrated benefit, I think it’s an obligation for us to ban artificial tanning for those under 18,” said panelist Dr. Michael Olding.

Not all panel members were in agreement with the idea of a ban, however, calling it unrealistic. Instead, they pushed for a requirement for strong warnings and parental notification.

Tanning beds and tanning lamps are listed as FDA Class I devices — those least likely to cause harm. But the FDA is considering reclassifying them as class II or class III medical devices, which would subject them to stricter regulation. By increasing their classification to Class II, the FDA could limit the levels of radiation the devices emit and make other changes to their design.

According to the American Journal of Dermatology, more than 30 million people tan indoors every year, and nearly three quarters of them are women between the ages of 16 and 29. Using a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent. It is one of the most common cancers among young adults in the United States, and it is on the rise in all age groups.

At yesterday’s panel meeting, representatives from the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society and American Academy of Dermatologists, along with melanoma survivors, also urged the FDA to reclassify tanning beds.

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