Keeping Teens Out of Tanning Beds

FDA panel meets to discuss safety of tanning beds

ByABC News via logo
March 24, 2010, 6:36 PM

March 25, 2010— -- Katie Donnar, 18, of Vincennes, Ind., was a cheerleader in middle school when she talked her mother into letting her use a tanning bed twice a week.

"Everyone else was tan and I didn't want to be the odd one," Donnar said. "So I tanned so I could fit in."

In high school, Donnar began competing in beauty pageants, so her mother bought her a personal tanning bed. Donnar said she began tanning more frequently.

While preparing for the Miss Indiana pageant, she discovered a brown spot on her leg that she had never noticed before, she said. And, at age 17, Donnar was diagnosed with an early stage of melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"As a 17-year-old I was just so confused," she said. "The people I knew with skin cancer were a lot older and had been in the sun their [whole] life."

Click here for tips on how to spot the warning signs of skin cancer.

Like Donnar, more than 30 million people tan indoors every year and nearly three quarters of them are women between ages 16 and 29, according to the Journal of American Dermatology. Using a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent.

Tanning salon businesses, one of the many industries hard hit by the recession, may now feel more heat with the passage of the Obama administration's new health care bill.

The bill includes a 10 percent tax on individuals receiving indoor tanning services, and the initiative is expected to generate $2.7 billion over 10 years to help fund the health care overhaul.

The Indoor Tanning Association, a Washington-based trade group, estimated the tax would hit 18,000 retail businesses nationwide, "harming these companies and jeopardizing the thousands of jobs they generate."

But for some organizations, an increased tax is not enough to curb the use of tanning beds. Minors should altogether be banned from using indoor tanning beds because of their health dangers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Tanning beds are currently considered class I medical devices by the FDA, which means they are subject to relatively few regulations.