In what has to be considered a major victory for those concerned about the proliferating use and risks of tanning beds, the Food and Drug Administration this week issued a final rule requiring devices used for indoor tanning to meet very specific requirements before they can be marketed to the public. And in what is probably an even more important part of the rule, they now instruct those who market tanning devices to consumers to warn them clearly about the very real and serious risks of indoor tanning.
What this means in plain terms is that if you use a tanning bed you will have to see a clearly defined boxed warning before you get in the bed that says tanning bed use is contraindicated if you are under 18. And for the rest of you who may be so inclined, you will have to be warned in a variety of other ways--including web pages, advertisements, and brochures--of the following:
(A) "Contraindication: This product is contraindicated for use on persons under the age of 18 years."
(B) "Contraindication: This product must not be used if skin lesions or open wounds are present."
(C) "Warning: This product should not be used on individuals who have had skin canceror have a family history of skin cancer."
(D) "Warning: Persons repeatedly exposed to UV radiation should be regularly evaluated for skin cancer."
Although tanning advocates submitted a number of comments to the FDA claiming that tanning had not been linked to increased risks of skin cancer and melanoma, the FDA staff methodically reviewed and presented the evidence that in fact tanning is dangerous when used as intended. And despite industry claims that the devices are safe and that the staff who work in tanning parlors are well trained, the evidence does not suggest such is the case. At least with the new rule, manufacturers will have to prove that their devices meet certain acceptable standards of performance and that customers are forewarned.
A number of states have recently enacted restrictions on the use of tanning beds by people under the age of 18. In fact, I personally am surprised at how quickly the states have responded to the evidence of tanning bed harms. Now the FDA has said very directly that those under 18 should not be allowed to use these devices. It will be interesting to see if the industry complies.
The reality as noted by the FDA in its rule is that the incidence of melanoma--especially among white females--in the United States is climbing. Tanning beds aren't solely responsible for this, since it is admittedly difficult to sort out all of the possible contributors including sunburns and tanning behaviors outdoors. But it is a component, and one that we can control.
Now it appears that the FDA has taken a giant step towards making this industry responsible for their claims and their behaviors. For those who believe these devices do something desirable or beneficial other than damage your skin there is now a message writ very large that "caveat emptor," or buyer beware.
We applaud the FDA for taking this action, and strongly urge you to take this warning seriously. The life you save may be your own-or someone you love.