State laws have been effective in reducing indoor tanning among American teenage and high school girls, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
States that have indoor tanning laws like parental permission and age restrictions experienced a considerable decline in the number of teenage and high school girls indulging in the activity compared to states with no such law.
For the study, Dr. Gery Guy at CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, analyzed results of the 2009 and 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of U.S. high school students in grades 9 to 12. He found that in high school students, 23.4 percent of females engaged in indoor tanning and 6.5 percent of males engaged in indoor tanning. He then examined several states' tanning laws and found that the odds of female students engaging in indoor tanning in states with tanning laws were 30 percent less than those in states without any such laws. They were also 42 percent less likely to indulge in indoor tanning if the state had laws like systems access, parental permission and age restriction.
"State indoor tanning laws, especially age restrictions, may be effective in reducing indoor tanning among our nation's youth," said Gery Guy, PhD, health economist and the study's lead author in a statement. "We need to address the harms of indoor tanning, especially among children. Indoor tanning laws can be part of a comprehensive effort to prevent skin cancers and change social norms around tanned skin."
According to CDC, about 3.5 million skin cancers are treated in the USA each year. About 60,000 are melanomas, the most dangerous kind. Melanomas have been rising, especially among young women, and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation through indoor tanning may be partly to blame, the CDC says.
An earlier report revealed that 29 percent of white, high school girls use tanning beds. What's even more disturbing is that 17 percent of these high school students admit to using them frequently.
In 2011, only California had indoor tanning laws in place. However, now there are five more states that have similar laws in place. They include Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont. These states restrict indoor tanning among minors aged younger than 18 years. Parental permission laws are in place in 28 states.
In 2012, The Indoor Tanning Association released a statement on indoor tanning bans for minors, saying it supported parental consent laws but not youth bans, because such laws took away parents' rights. It also said bans on indoor tanning would encourage teens to tan outside, raising their risk of sunburn.
"Proponents of these laws always exaggerate the risks of exposure to ultraviolet light in order to get the attention of the public, the media and the government. It is a fact that ultraviolet light from a sunbed is the same as that from the sun and regular moderate non-burning exposure is essential for good health," officials said in the statement.
In May last year, The Food and Drugs Administration has proposed that all indoor tanning beds should have a label warning users about the possibility of cancer and that the devices shouldn't be used by people under 18.
Findings of the new study were published online by the American Journal of Public Health.