New research indicates a direct link between tanning indoors and skin cancer. Many states are following California’s example in establishing stricter tanning regulations, but Virginia has yet to adopt legislative restrictions.
California recently implemented a law banning teens under 18 from indoor tanning, which likely has inspired other states to consider tanning restrictions. However, according to some specialists, tanning does not pose an environmental threat in all areas of the country.
“Tanning regulations do not currently take prevalence over the many other health concerns in our area,” said Gary Hagy, director of food and environmental health at the Virginia Health Department. “There is only so much you can do to protect the youth of an area. (For Virginia) indoor tanning is not as much of an environmental threat as it might be for California.”
According to the FDA, recent research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer
reported the UV radiation emitted from tanning beds is being placed in the highest-risk category as a direct cause of cancer.
The research stems from the Journal Of Investigative Dermatology, which issued findings indicating the ultraviolet ray UVA1 used in tanning beds may filtrate into deep layers of skin that are most sensitive to skin cancer.
AIM, a cancer research organization for melanoma, currently is working on changing tanning laws across the country, including Virginia. However, an effort to pass the suggested legislation has proved to be a difficult and long process.
“In 2011, over 33 bills were introduced, but only one was signed into law,” said Samantha Guild, president and founder of AIM at Melanoma.
Over time, AIM representatives have been proactive in their efforts to educate government about the many risks and dangers of indoor tanning.
Even though there are new scientific studies, the Virginia Department of Health hasn’t updated its regulations since 2007.
“There is now stronger evidence showing a link between melanoma and tanning beds,” Guild said. This evidence has made it possible to influence legislation to pass more restrictive laws over time.
According to Guild, until a bill is passed, the most important action that can be taken is educating the population about the dangers and risks of tanning.
“The problem that we are having with the tanning bill is that most people look at the issue as an anti-business bill … but it is not going to completely kill the industry as government may believe,” Guild said. “But it is (the governments’) duty to make the public aware that (indoor tanning) is a proven human carcinogen just like cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.”
The U.S. Food and Drug administration is responsible for implementing studies on indoor tanning and recently found teens to be in the spectrum of highest vulnerability.
“FDA is particularly concerned about children and teens being exposed to UV rays,” the FDA stated in a 2010 article based on findings from the National Cancer Institute. “Intermittent exposures to
intense UV radiation leading to sunburns, especially in childhood and teen years, increase the risk of
Virginia’s current law restricts minors under 15 from tanning. However, the law allows teens over 15 with parental consent to use indoor tanning beds.
“Since most of the people who come in to tan are young teens or young adults, placing a ban on minor use of the beds would definitely be detrimental to local businesses … especially with the facility being on a college campus,” said Louie Glasglo, former employee at Fan Tan in Richmond.
According to a USA Today article, John Overstreet, the executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, stated that a lack of direct evidence is responsible for the implications in passing new tanning laws.
“Tanning beds have the same ratio of UV waves as the sun,” Overstreet stated. “There is no science that shows non-burning exposure to your skin or a sun lamp causes cancer.”
However, while sunscreen application is common for those who easily burn in the natural sunlight, indoor tanners do not use sunscreen in the tanning beds.
“It defeats the purpose of going to the tanning salon if you use sunscreen,” VCU junior Katrina Khali said. “The first few sessions that I attend don’t really create a notable difference in the first place. So putting extra protection on would be a waste of money and time.”
Khali acknowledged the detrimental risks of tanning. However, she said indoor tanning actually has actually improved some physical skin conditions.
“I’ve had skin problems before, and the creams haven’t really worked out for me,” Khali said. “I’ve definitely noticed a decline in acne on my face and chest after attending a few sessions at the salon.”