On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Health News: What HB 1471 Means for Indoor Tanning

Whether it’s to look great in a white dress or to build a “base” tan, it’s not uncommon for teenagers to visit a tanning salon before prom or spring break. About 1.6 million minors used an indoor tanning device in 2013, according to the FDA.

However, next year’s prom-goers and spring breakers may not be able to visit a tanning salon until they’re 18, at least in our state. Newly proposed legislation, Oklahoma HB 1471, aims to ban indoor tanning in businesses for everyone younger than 18.

Only 12 states and Washington D.C. have completely banned the use of tanning beds in businesses for anyone younger than 18. Oklahoma may be the thirteenth. If the bill is passed, the ban would become effective Nov. 1.

The dangers of indoor tanning

“We know indoor tanning causes cancer,” said Dawn Watson, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Your skin is a growing organ until you’re 35,” Watson said. “The damage that happens as a youth is what causes skin cancer later in life.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the use of UV-emitting tanning devices as a Group 1 carcinogen, the highest cancer risk category.  IARC’s conclusion was based on its 2006 review of 19 studies conducted over 25 years on the use of indoor tanning equipment.

A classification of Group 1 means the IARC finds those things carcinogenic to humans, indicating there’s sufficient evidence that a causal relationship has been established. Other Group 1 carcinogens are smoking, arsenic and processed meats.

If you’ve used an indoor tanning bed before the age of 35, you’re 59 percent more likely to get melanoma, Watson said.

Melanoma is a particularly dangerous kind of skin cancer. Depending on the progression of the cancer, melanoma sometimes needs to be excavated to the bone. Because it progresses quickly, melanoma can metastasize straight to the brain. Melanoma is the second most common cancer in women 20 to 29 years old, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Indoor tanning is more dangerous than outdoor tanning since it can be used at the same high intensity every day, while the sun’s intensity varies with such things as time of day, season and cloud cover.

Why parental consent doesn’t matter

While 12 states and Washington D.C. completely ban indoor tanning for minors, 30 other states have varying regulations in place against tanning for minors. Some states prohibit minors of various ages from UV tanning and others require parent or guardian permission or accompaniment.

However, the American Cancer Society does not support parental consent.

“Parental consent doesn’t protect you from cancer,” Watson said. “We don’t write our children notes to get a pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes are in the same class as indoor tanning.”

The bill is currently on the Oklahoma Senate floor. An amendment has been proposed that will allow indoor tanning with parental consent.

“We hope that it will pass without parental consent,” Watson said. “We do not support parental consent.”

Regular self-examination is critical to finding skin cancer early. Symptoms of skin cancer can be visible changes in the appearance of an area of the skin. Learn more about skin cancer treatment and symptoms from the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute.