WASHINGTON (AP) — Tanning beds and sun lamps will carry new warnings that they should not be used by anyone under age 18, part of a government action announced Thursday aimed at reducing rising rates of skin cancer linked to the radiation-emitting devices.
The Food and Drug Administration has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but for the first time the agency is requiring manufacturers to warn consumers about the cancer risks of indoor tanning.
Along with the bolded age restriction on the machines themselves, manufacturers must provide additional warnings about cancer risks in pamphlets, catalogues and websites that promote their products. Those materials must warn that the devices shouldn’t be used by people who have had skin cancer or have a family history of the disease.
The government action is aimed at curbing cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which have been on the rise for about 30 years. An estimated 2.3 million U.S. teenagers tan indoors each year, and melanoma is the most common form of cancer among young adults, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
For years, physician groups have urged the U.S. government to take action on tanning beds. The groups cite increases in the number of cases of skin cancer among people in their teens and 20s. Melanoma rates have been rising faster among girls and women ages 15 to 29 than in their male counterparts.
Opponents of the indoor tanning industry compared the action to federal warnings labels on cigarettes and tobacco products.
“The FDA’s decision to more strictly regulate tanning beds will save lives and serve as a valuable resource in efforts to slow down the increasing rate of melanoma, particularly in the young,” said Tim Turnham of the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Calls placed to the Indoor Tanning Association were not immediately returned Thursday. The group represents makers of tanning products and operators of indoor tanning facilities.
Additionally, the FDA is requiring manufacturers to meet certain safety and design requirements, including timers and limits on the radiation levels they produce.
Previously the FDA classified tanning machines as low-risk devices, in the same group as bandages and tongue depressors. As part of Thursday’s action the FDA reclassified all tanning beds and sun lamps as moderate-risk, or class II, devices. That allows the FDA to review their safety and design before manufacturers can begin selling them.
Safety standards are important because recent studies show that many devices can cause sunburn even when used as directed.
Companies will have roughly 15 months to place the warning labels on devices already used in tanning facilities. Companies looking to sell new devices will have to comply with the new labeling and premarket review requirements within 90 days.
The FDA requirements only apply to makers of indoor tanning devices, not salon operators. More than 30 states already have laws restricting indoor tanning for teenagers.
Nearly 140,000 new cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed this year and the disease is expected to cause 9,710 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
Recent studies have shown that the risk of melanoma is 75 percent higher in people who have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning. While most cases are diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s, the disease is linked to sun exposure at a young age.