Sherry Pagoto, PhD
The Food and Drug Administration’s recent proposal to restrict anyone younger than 18 years old from using tanning beds and to require adults to sign risk acknowledgment statements before using them is a welcome and bold move, said behavioral psychologist Sherry Pagoto, PhD, who studies tanning behaviors.
Dr. Pagoto, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, likened the FDA’s proposal to successful tobacco legislation that has had an enormous impact on reducing lung cancer rates over time.
“There has been an increasing prevalence of skin cancer in the last couple of decades while we’re seeing a decline in other cancers. This proposal is timely and important from a public health perspective,” said Dr. Pagoto, who has published several papers on the topic.
The lightbulbs used in indoor tanning beds are a known contributor to skin cancer. Yet, 1.6 million minors indoor tan each year, increasing their risk of skin cancer and other damage, based on data from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In addition, the effects of exposure to UV radiation add up over one’s lifetime. Therefore, UV radiation exposure in children and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life, Pagoto said.
The FDA is proposing two rules related to the use of sunlamp devices. The first would restrict use of indoor tanning products to individuals 18 years and older. In addition, adult users would have to sign a risk acknowledgement certification that states that they have been informed of the risks to health that may result from use of sunlamp products.
Pagoto said the proposal to require adults to sign a form stating that they’re aware of the health risks associated with tanning “is an exciting step that goes beyond just labeling the device in terms of educating the public.”
“We’re still in that place where the industry is sending ‘health’ messages around tanning that competes with the messages coming from science. It’s a great move in attempt to better educate users about the dangers,” Pagoto said.
The FDA is also proposing that sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities be required to take additional measures to improve the overall safety of these devices, such as making warning labels easier to read and improving overall device and use safety.
The proposed device restriction would apply to manufacturers and tanning facility operators; the FDA estimates that there are up to 19,000 indoor tanning salons in the U.S. and from 15,000 to 20,000 other facilities that offer indoor tanning services, such as health clubs.
“The proposal is wonderful, but we also have to think about legislation that would prevent misuse in private settings, like homes,” Pagoto said.
The FDA’s proposed rules are available online at www.regulations.gov for public comment for 90 days.
Related links on UMassMedNow:
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