It’s a fact, like smoking causes lung cancer: The link between indoor tanning and cancer is clear — people who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely than others to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The way to avoid melanoma is to be “sun smart” — avoid the hottest hours under the sun, and wear sunscreen year-round. The other way is to stay out of tanning beds.
Toward this end, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, has introduced a common-sense bill that bans people under age 18 from using tanning beds, the Associated Press reported. King said the topic has been discussed for five years in the Legislature, and that this year’s bill has input from tanning industry representatives, several of whom voiced their support on Monday.
The bill would require users of tanning equipment to show a driver’s license or other form of government-issued ID. Facilities that are in violation could be fined up to $250 per violation.
In 2011, no states had such a ban; today, California, Illinois, Nevada, Texas, Vermont and Oregon ban the use of tanning beds for minors under 18, and 33 states and the District of Columbia regulate the use of tanning facilities for minors, AP reported. The bans have come as the evidence piles up:
Since 1992, rates of melanoma have risen 3 percent a year in white women ages 15 to 39, according to the American Cancer Society. About 35 percent of 17-year-old girls use tanning machines, according to the FDA.
Much like smoking dangers, a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found that most females (86 percent) who reported using an indoor tanning bed knew that it could increase the risk of skin cancer, but believed the risks were worth it. Yet another survey found that many white teen girls and young who use indoor tanning beds have mothers who use them.
For years now, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Dermatology, and the World Health Organization have called on states to ban minors from tanning salons.
In Washington, according to the EPA, the rate of new melanoma diganoses was 35 percent higher than the national average fro 2001-2005 and was the fifth highest in the U.S, and had the 16th highest melanoma death rate nationally. (Island County has one of the top 10 rates of new melanoma diagnoses among counties nationwide — 130 percent above the national average.)
Of course tanning beds are not responsible for those numbers, but they are part of the problem, and banning their use for children and teens is a necessary part of the solution.