Congressional Investigation Finds Tanning Salons Lie About Health Risks to Patrons

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Melanoma rates have significantly increased in the last 10 years, says Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

"The only attributable reason is the major increasing use of tanning beds, or, as we call them, 'tanning coffins,' in that age group over the last 10 to 15 years," said Rigel.

But John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, refuted the dangerous claims, calling the report "bias." He said there is insufficient evidence to prove such health risks, and argued that parents join their teen daughters at the tanning salons and sign consent forms, which explain the health risks of tanning beds.

"I don't think you can draw conclusions from a report where a person is posing as a 16-year-old over the phone," said Overstreet, who said he regularly uses indoor tanning salons. "Asking questions over the phone is not what they're going to hear face-to-face with a parent beside them."

Asked whether he agrees with the FDA recommendation that people limit their tanning salon visits to no more than three times per week, Overstreet said, "you can't make a blanket recommendation for everyone."

Parental consent laws exist in 30 states, but Connolly said that, even where it is regulated, there is poor compliance. California is the only state that has banned indoor tanning for minors. Connolly said she hopes other states follow suit.

But Dr. Steven Feldman, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, disagreed, and said there is already too much government regulation regarding such matters.

"I think people should educate themselves and be responsible for the risks they take," said Feldman, who noted that people who tan will destroy their skin. "However, this report suggests that tanning bed operators are, in some cases, misleading and mis-educating people. That should not be allowed."

A number of countries have enacted stricter regulations regarding indoor tanning including five Australia states, Britain, Brazil, France, Belgium, Spain, Scotland, Germany, Portugal and the province of New Brunswick in Canada, Connolly noted. The WHO has recommended stricter legislation that would prohibit the use of indoor tanning for those under 18 years of age.

"We must do this in our country," Connolly said.

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