U.S. tanning salons should close their doors to minors to protect them from skin cancer, a group of 60,000 pediatricians said Monday in a new policy statement.Of course, education about the dangers of tanning salons and exposure to the sun will be the most effective. But, some sort of warning system initiated by each state is appoprriate for underage children.
With the move, the American Academy of Pediatrics joins the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Academy of Dermatology and other groups that are already pushing for a ban.
"There are more tanning facilities in the U.S. than there are Starbucks or McDonald's," said Dr. Sophie J. Balk, who helped write the new statement for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "More than a million visits are made every day."
Since 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the WHO, has classified tanning beds as cancer-causing.
Research shows people who start going to tanning salons before age 35 have a 75-percent increase in their chances of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
The actual numbers remain small, however. In one large Scandinavian study, 24 out of every 10,000 young women who tanned regularly developed melanoma compared to 17 out of every 10,000 who had never or only rarely used a tanning bed.
But ultraviolet light - whether artificial or from the sun -- also causes less dangerous types of skin cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million skin cancers are diagnosed every year in the U.S. and most of them are sun-related.
About one in 50 white people get melanoma at some point in their life, and the number has been climbing for the past three decades. Each year, about 8,700 Americans die from the disease.
"I see it as a very important public health issue," said Balk, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York. "We're coming out very strongly for legislation that supports banning minors' access to tanning salons."
Surveys have found that nearly a quarter of white teenagers in the U.S. have tried indoor tanning at least once. And many do it regularly.