FDA Seeks Cancer Warning Label For Tanning Beds

Amid increasing evidence of the link between indoor tanning and melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a proposal which would require indoor tanning beds to feature prominent labels warning people under the age of 18 not to use them.

The proposal, which was announced on Monday, would reclassify tanning beds as class II (moderate risk) devices, making them subject to increased FDA safety measures before they could be marketed to the public.

Although the proposal, if approved, would likely not go into effect for at least a couple of years, it represents the FDA’s first attempt to regulate the use of tanning beds by minors.

The proposed warning label reads: “Attention: This sunlamp product should not be used on persons under the age of 18 years.”

The FDA-proposed labels would also recommend regular users to be screened regularly for skin cancer.

Jeffrey Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, described the proposal “as a first step” in the regulation of tanning beds, leaving open the possibility that the Administration could eventually move to ban the use of the devices by young people completely.

The agency will listen to comments on the proposal for 90 days before issuing a final decision.

FDA Warning A Long Time Coming

The Federal Drug Administration’s proposal comes on the heels of mounting evidence of the harmful effects of indoor tanning on young people.

A comprehensive study conducted in 2006 discovered that people who began tanning before the age of 35 increased their risk for developing melanoma by 75%. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is responsible for over 9,000 of the roughly 12,000 annual skin cancer deaths.

In 2009, another study concluded that 58% of minors have been sunburnt while tanning.

The same year, the World Health Organization upgraded their assessment of the risk posed by tanning devices from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans,” concluding that tanning devices which emit UV radiation are more harmful than had been originally thought.

The World Health Organization is one of a number of major health organizations, including The American Academy of Paediatrics and the American Academy of Dermatology, that have raised their voices in recent years concerning the health risks posed by tanning devices.

Ways To Decrease Risk of Injury

The Federal Drug Administration notes a number of practices which can help limit the harmful effects of indoor tanning. These include:

  • Wearing goggles to avoid eye injuries
  • Minimize exposure times to avoid skin burns
  • Follow manufacturer-advised exposure times for individual skin types
  • Avoid tanning while wearing cosmetics that increase sensitivity to UV rays
  • Consult with a doctor beforehand