Earlier this year, US House Representative Henry A Waxman, ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the minority staff (Democrats) of the committee sent Committee investigators to 300 tanning salons nationwide, including at least three salons in each state and the District of Columbia.

The investigators represented themselves as fair-skinned teenage girls and asked each salon a series of questions regarding its policies and the risks and benefits of tanning.  They also reviewed the print and online advertising of tanning salons.

The results of the investigation?  “Tanning salons are routinely not providing accurate information about skin cancer and other risks to teens seeking their services.

“The alarming results show that the vast majority of tanning salons contacted by Committee investigators provided false information about the serious risks of indoor tanning and made erroneous claims about the health benefits that indoor tanning provides.”

Specifically, here’s what they found:

Nearly all salons denied the known risks of indoor tanning.

When asked whether tanning posed any health risks for fair-skinned teenage girls, 90% stated that indoor tanning posed no health risk.

When asked about the risk of skin cancer, 51% denied that indoor tanning increased a fair-skinned teenager’s risk of developing skin cancer and characterized the risk as “a big myth,” “rumor,” and “hype.”

80 % of salons claimed that indoor tanning is beneficial to a young person’s health.

Several salons said that tanning would prevent cancer.  Other health benefits claimed were Vitamin D production, treatment of depression and low self-esteem, prevention of and treatment for arthritis, weight loss, prevention of osteoporosis, reduction of cellulite, boosting the immune system, sleeping better, treating lupus, and improving symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The investigators were told that young people aren’t at risk for developing skin cancer; that rising rates of skin cancer are caused by increased use of sunscreen; that government regulators certified the safety of indoor tanning; and that “it’s got to be safe, or else they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Salons referred the investigators to industry websites that present indoor tanning as a health benefit.

Tanning salons fail to follow FDA recommendations on tanning frequency.

The FDA recommends that indoor tanning be limited to a maximum of three visits in the first week, yet 75% of salons reported they permit first-time customers to tan daily.  Several volunteered that they did not even require 24-hour intervals between tanning sessions.

Tanning salons target teenage girls in their advertisements.

Salons offer student discounts and prom, homecoming and back-to-school specials.

These specials offer unlimited tanning packages, allowing frequent—even daily—tanning, despite research showing that frequent indoor tanning significantly increases the likelihood that a woman will develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, before she reaches 30 years of age.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is in full support of the efforts of Representatives Waxman and his minority staff to expose the erroneous messages delivered by the indoor tanning industry.

By touting false benefits (aka, lying) of indoor tanning, the salons are putting the lives of people, particularly young women, in jeopardy.

Brazil and one state, New South Wales, in Australia have banned the use of tanning beds.

The United Kingdom, Germany, Scotland, France, several Australian states and several Canadian provinces have banned indoor tanning for people younger than age 18.

California and Vermont have banned the use of tanning beds for minors.

Some local jurisdictions also have banned the use of tanning beds by minors.

Sources:  Committee on Energy and Commerce minority staff report, February 1, 2012       Skin Cancer Foundation report, February 1, 2012


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