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FDA mulls tanning bed ban for teens under 18

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An FDA panel recommended Thursday a strong move to ban teenagers from tanning beds. They're trying to protect teens from the cumulative UV ray exposure that is linked to skin cancer. Tanning salon owner, 20-year-old Hannah Balonick, has used tanning beds since she was 15. She believes it's much safer than sitting under the sun.

"You can control the UVB when you're in a tanning bed," said Balonick.

But government regulators don't think anyone under 18 should be under these artificial lights at all. An FDA panel now recommends tanning beds should be banned for minors.

In a tanning bed, ultra-violet light blankets your body. The light stimulates skin cells, which causes your skin to produce pigment and it makes you darker. But too much exposure to UV light can also damage DNA.

Tanning bulbs emit mostly UVA rays which are not associated with burning, but doctors say it can still cause damage.

"Recent studies have shown that UVA can still cause skin cancers, can cause direct damage to your DNA leading to mutations," said dermatologist Dr. Thomas Su.

About 22 million people who use indoor tanning are women between the ages of 16 and 29.

"More than half of our UV exposure we get in our youth," said Dr. Su. "All of that UV exposure is going to correlate with more skin cancers in the future."

At Maui Tanning, all minors must obtain signed parental consent. Salon manager, Michele Smith, thinks the government should require all tanning employees to be educated in safety -- not ban minors.

"They have no control over kids going to the beach or kids going out in the sun," said Smith. "So they're going to target us."

The FDA doesn't think any amount of indoor tanning is safe. If they accept the committee's recommendation, people under 18 won't be able to use a tanning bed unless they get consent from a doctor.