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Health Advocate Calls For National Regulation Of Tanning Beds As Rates Of Skin Cancer Rise Among Youth

Expert from The Children's Hospital at Montefiore Urges Pediatricians to Educate Families about Dangers of Artificial Tanning

NEW YORK, March 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health advocates are urging government regulators to take action to protect the nation's youth by restricting the use of artificial tanning devices, which are linked to an increase in the risk of skin cancer, according to an article published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Indoor tanning has grown rapidly over the years with nearly one million Americans using tanning beds each day. Adolescent girls -- some as young as 10 years old -- are among the most prevalent users of these devices. One in four female students reported having used an indoor tanning device at least once within the past year.

"There is no federal law and few state laws to protect our youth from the harmful, and possibly deadly, effects of tanning beds, which can emit up to 15 times as much UV-A radiation as the midday sun," said lead author Sophie J. Balk, M.D., attending pediatrician, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) and professor of clinical pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. "We place age restrictions on the use of tobacco and alcohol, and it's time to take action against indoor tanning before more people die from tanning-related skin cancer."

Data show that the incidence of melanoma skin cancer has increased two fold in women between 15 and 39 years old in the last 30 years and yet there is no federal legislation to limit tanning and restrict use by minors who, many researchers believe, are the most vulnerable users.

Tanning salons outnumber Starbucks or McDonalds in the average U.S. city, and the tanning industry uses claims such as tanned skin is more protective and people who use tanning beds are less likely to burn to entice teens to use the inexpensive services. Teens are also enticed to use tanning beds as they often believe that having darker skin is more attractive and it signifies good health, but some estimates suggest that 25 percent of melanomas in young women could be attributable to using tanning beds.

Beyond aesthetics, many girls believe tanning elevates their mood and helps them to relax. This thinking is often influenced not only by the tanning industry, but by girls' mothers who also use tanning devices, which is why Dr. Balk is calling on pediatricians around the country to better educate families about the dangerous and possibly addictive nature of indoor tanning.

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