Too Few Teens Know the Dangers of Tanning Beds: Poll

39% of 14- to 17-year-olds incorrectly believe indoor tanning is safer than the sun, survey found

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TUESDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Many tanning salons in the United States don't warn teens and young women about the skin cancer risks posed by tanning beds, according to a new survey.

The American Academy of Dermatology's online poll included more than 3,800 white females aged 14 to 22 from across the country who were asked about their tanning knowledge, attitudes and behavior.

The survey found that 43 percent of indoor tanners said they had never been warned about the dangers of tanning beds by tanning salon employees, and 30 percent said they hadn't noticed any warning labels on tanning beds.

And the survey revealed some potentially deadly misperceptions about tanning beds.

Younger tanning bed users (aged 14 to 17) were twice as likely as older users (aged 18 to 22) to incorrectly believe that tanning beds are safer than the sun (39 percent versus 15 percent), and more than three times as likely to incorrectly believe that tanning beds do not cause skin cancer (26 percent versus 8 percent), according to the results.

"Indoor tanning poses a significant health risk, especially for [white people] because of their fair skin. Studies have found that UV [ultraviolet] radiation from indoor tanning beds increases a person's risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent," Dr. Ronald L. Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), said in an academy news release.

"Contributing to this problem is the fact that tanning bed facilities currently are not required to verbally warn patrons of the known health risks of UV radiation and, in some cases, they may be misleading the public by falsely promoting artificial UV light as safer than natural sunlight," he added.

Moy noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently classifies tanning beds as a Class I medical device. This means they are subject to a minimal level of regulation and oversight, similar to tongue depressors, bandages and crutches.

"That is why it's important that the FDA change the classification of indoor tanning devices to reflect the significant health risks that they pose, often unknowingly, to tanning salon patrons," Moy added.

The AADA supports the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act, which calls on the FDA to review its classification of indoor tanning beds and to introduce enhanced consumer warning label rules for the devices.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about tanning beds.

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