Statement from Tim Turnham,
Executive Director, Melanoma Research Foundation,
Regarding FDA Regulation of Tanning Beds
For years we have watched more and more people being diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision that may turn that trend around.
Like the tobacco industry, tanning salons market an addictive product disproportionately to teenagers and young women, playing on common insecurities. The FDA’s decision to more strictly regulate tanning beds will save lives and serve as a valuable resource in efforts to slow down the increasing rate of melanoma, particularly in the young. By classifying tanning beds as Class II devices, tanning salons will now be required to demonstrate they are properly maintaining their equipment. As a Class II medical device, tanning beds will be subject to additional regulatory actions, including meeting specific criteria that ensure devices will not subject consumers to harm or injury. Clear action by the FDA has been sorely needed for years. Tanning salons routinely misrepresent the health risks of tanning, rarely calibrate the power of their lamps and fail to control the level of UV exposure their clients experience.
With today’s action, the FDA will ensure that consumers are better informed of the risks and potentially life-threatening damage that indoor tanning causes. The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) congratulates the FDA for their commitment to protecting public health by clearly communicating the risks of tanning bed use. The role of tanning beds in the rising rate of melanoma diagnoses is clear, and the MRF applauds the FDA for removing any “cover” the tanning industry has for misrepresenting the deadly dangers of tanning.
Melanoma is the deadliest and most common form of cancer for people ages 25-29, and the second most common cancer for teens ages 15-19. The risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent for those who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning devices and with each use of a tanning bed, the risk of melanoma continues to increase.
Our scientific understanding of the risks tanning beds pose is not new. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), re-categorized UV-emitting tanning devices from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to the highest cancer risk level: “carcinogenic to humans.” In March 2010, the MRF participated in an FDA-hosted hearing, where medical experts testified about the dangers of tanning beds, including its ability to produce an addictive “runner’s high” among users. After two days of testimonies, the FDA panel concluded that the cancer risk of UV lamps is indisputable.
Since the 2010 hearing, additional reports emerged, highlighting the urgency of FDA action:
- An investigation report released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2012 revealed that tanning salon owners and staff were citing the FDA’s inaction as “proof” that tanning beds are safe. Several salon employees were caught telling an investigator posing as a teenage girl, “If they were dangerous, the FDA would put a warning label on them!”
- In 2013, the National Cancer Institute released alarming statistics showing the rate of young people, especially young women, being diagnosed with melanoma is growing at an alarming rate. Data also showed that girls and young women were 1.6 times more likely than boys and young men to develop melanoma.
Now, it's critical for every parent, family physician, schoolteacher and public health advocate to promote greater understanding of the grave risk people--especially young people--take when they enter a tanning bed.
Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types. With a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 77,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2014, resulting in almost 10,000 deaths. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.
The majority of melanomas occur on the skin; in fact, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can also occur in the eye (ocular, or uveal melanoma), in mucous membranes (mucosal melanoma), or even beneath fingernails or toenails.
About the Melanoma Research Foundation
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent organization devoted to melanoma. Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma. The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure. The MRF’s website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers. More information is available at www.melanoma.org. Find the MRF on Facebook and Twitter.