Minors should not have access to tanning beds

By Tara Petzoldt
On October 19, 2011

Last week, California passed the first legislation in the country banning indoor tanning devices for all minors in the state.

The American Academy of Dermatology, a nonprofit organization working to combat melanoma, welcomed the legislation with high praise - as should the rest of the country.

Though 30 other states have indoor tanning restrictions in place for minors, according to the Associated Press, California is the first to ban it. With so much proof available on the dangers of indoor tanning, mere restrictions are simply not enough, and more states should follow California's example.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation's website, there is no skin cancer more serious than melanoma, and if not caught early, "the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal."

The shocking knowledge that one blistering childhood sunburn may double the chance of developing melanoma, according to the foundation, is a harsh reality that deserves attention. A childhood burn is not restricted to a burn from the sun. The argument that UV rays from tanning beds are safe is losing ground as research and evidence stacks against it.

According to U.S. News and World Report, UV tanning devices officially made the move onto the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) list of substances with the highest risk of causing cancer, grouping them in the same category as cigarettes and plutonium.

This move proved substantial, putting to rest former arguments from the tanning bed industry that indoor tanning is safe in moderation, or the notion that there are merely possible risks involved. The risk is definite. California's new legislation is heeding the warning seriously, and legislators from other states must fall in line.

Melanoma risks are increased 75 percent for those exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning before the age of 30, according to the IARC.

Following such harsh statistics, it is hard to comprehend why indoor tanning is legal at all, particularly for minors who are most susceptible to skin cancer later in life. The World Health Organization emphasizes restriction for minors for this reason, among others.

The prevalence and danger of melanoma and other skin cancers are undeniable. In fact, melanoma is the second-most diagnosed cancer in all individuals 15 to 29 years of age.

Yet, indoor tanning continues, in part because of social beauty ideals that include evenly tanned skin.

Many minors may be unaware of the dangers of indoor tanning. With such research now available, tanning beds have been proved fatal. Education must start with young people.

In a statement to ABC News, the Indoor Tanning Association claimed businesses will suffer and people will lose jobs because of the California ban. For those states wary about issuing such legislation for similar business-related issues, they must sincerely consider the potential cost to human life.

Tara Petzoldt is a junior majoring in political science.

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