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Calif. bans indoor tanning for teenagers

October 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new law on the books bans indoor tanning for teens. How will this affect the rate of skin cancer? Experts say the move is long overdue.

Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that makes it illegal for teens under 18 to use tanning beds.

Before, teenagers 15 to 17 could use tanning beds as long as they had their parents' permission.

Now California becomes the first state to set that higher limit. Skin cancer experts hope the law will have a profound impact on lowering the rate of melanoma.

Anyone under the age of 18 will be banned from indoor tanning altogether.

The director of Melanoma Research Program at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Dr. Donald Morton, applauds the new law.

"The ultraviolet lights in the tanning salon cause damage to the skin and this is associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma," said Morton.

Supporters of this law cited numerous studies that show the younger you start tanning the more likely you are to get melanoma.

"There have been multiple epidemiological studies and every one has shown an increased risk," said Morton.

Skin cancer is the number one cause of death in women ages 25 to 29. The under-18 ban is the strictest tanning bed restriction, followed by Texas, which bans it for those under 16.

The Indoor Tanning Association says about 5 to 10 percent of its customers are teenagers, and that the ban will hurt business. The association also says tanning salons are already regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"If they start that when they're young, under 18, it's like smoking," said Ellen Becker, a concerned mother. "It's insidious, they're going to do it, they're going to keep doing it. And the risks are even greater then."

There are more tanning salons in Los Angeles County than McDonald's or Starbucks.

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