Skin cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. For women between the ages of 20-29, skin cancer remains the second most common type of diagnosed cancer. The majority of skin cancers are linked to both indoor and outdoor tanning behaviors. Outdoor tanning can occur recreationally, during sports, or even in some workplaces; however, indoor tanning in the US mainly occurs in specific tanning salons with tanning beds.
Tanning beds are specially designed devices that emit UV radiation and light during a predetermined amount of time. Within the past five years, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified tanning beds as "Carcinogenic to Humans". This is their most serious classification and helped to reinforce the decisions of many states to ban the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 16 and to require parental consent for anyone under the age of 18.
Several recent high profile cases of skin cancer among beauty pageant contestants have helped to spur along further regulatory pushes for the more restrictive tanning laws in several states. The fight against indoor tanning is by no means only a US fight - it is truly an international issue. Several western European Countries have enacted similar restrictions and Brazil and five of Australia’s states have banned tanning completely.
Of people that do use tanning beds there are several behaviors that are particularly risky. These are:
• Choosing not to wear the provided goggles (this can cause eye issues or even ocular melanoma
• Beginning with long tanning sessions - this can cause burning and increase the already increased risk
• Failing to follow the manufacturer recommended exposure times that are based on skin type
• Tanning while using medications that may make you more sensitive to UV rays.
• Tanning while under the age of 16 - younger individuals who tan indoors are linked to much higher rates of skin cancer.
Although many tanning companies may claim that indoor tanning is the “safest way to get vitamin D” this is simply not true. The Majority of Americans are able to receive their needed amounts of Vitamin D through their daily diets and their normal amounts of sunlight exposure. The FDA and FTC have recently begun to investigate and prosecute major tanning bed companies in regards to multiple false claims regarding the vitamin D statements.
In conclusion, tanning beds are a dangerous habit. The United States still has thousands of salons that offer tanning, but regulations are becoming stricter and more prevalent. Of particular concern is the ever widening amount of information that is false regarding the safety of indoor tanning. The Surgeon general, along with the CDC and FDA, are steadily working to help raise public awareness about the dangers of indoor tanning.
Within the next ten years the goal is to decrease indoor tanning attendance steadily and to encourage safer outdoor behaviors. As with any public healthcare challenge, persistence and a clear message will be crucial in order to convince the American public about the reality of tanning.
A Samson is a professional writer focused on online learning. He currently writes for CNE Explorer, an online provider of evidence based continuing education for nurses around the world. Visit http://www.cneexplorer.com
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