Indoor Tanning Ban for Minors Advances

Proposed legislation to protect young people from the health risks associated with indoor tanning was overwhelmingly approved late Monday by the state’s Public Health Committee and now moves to the full General Assembly for further consideration and action.

The bill is based in part on recent research led by the Yale School of Public Health that found a strong link between the ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by indoor tanning beds and the early onset of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a form of skin cancer. Previous research has linked indoor tanning to other forms of skins cancer, including melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

Senate Bill 872 would ban minors under 18 years of age from indoor tanning salons. Currently, minors as young as 16 are allowed to tan indoors without parental consent. If approved, the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Susan T. Mayne, the C.-E. A. Winslow Professor of Epidemiology and a cancer epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, testified before the committee in mid March that the UV rays produced by indoor tanning devices are scientifically linked to sharply elevated risks for various forms of skin cancer.

“Because skin cancer has been increasing in younger age groups, especially women, recent studies have attempted to understand why” said Mayne. “Our research findings in non-melanoma skin cancer are strikingly similar to the results of recent studies of melanoma in younger people, showing a strong link with indoor tanning.  Many of our study subjects had already had more than one skin cancer before age 40, which was really alarming.”

The Yale research, published last year, surveyed some 800 people under age 40 in Connecticut (half with skin cancer, half without) and found that indoor tanning was associated with a 69 percent increased risk of BCC compared with never tanning indoors. More than 80 percent of the females under age 40 who had skin cancer had used tanning beds, the vast majority of which were in commercial tanning facilities. Furthermore, the study concluded that 43 percent of early-onset BCCs in women could be avoided if they never tanned indoors.

YSPH Dean Paul Cleary said the bill is a strong example of how scientific studies can be used to directly impact the health of Connecticut residents. 

“Professor Mayne not only conducted a scientifically rigorous and compelling study, but then worked closely with the legislature to ensure that the results of her study benefited young people in Connecticut,” he said.  “Her study undoubtedly will also have an impact on other similar pending or anticipated legislation throughout the country.”

State Rep. Philip Miller, D-Essex, vice chair of the public health committee, told the Hartford Courant that there is growing evidence that the technology used in indoor tanning can be dangerous and that the measure approved Monday would help to protect public health.

The bill is supported by a large coalition of medical and public health organizations but is not without opposition from the indoor tanning industry. Three people involved in the indoor tanning industry testified during the public hearing that the state’s indoor tanning salon industry, some 100 outlets, has already implemented voluntary restrictions, which require parental permission for minors, and that further government oversight is not needed. They also claimed that a number of factors contribute to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and that UV exposure from tanning beds is not “clear cut.”

In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated data on indoor tanning and skin cancer and found what it called “convincing evidence” of a link for melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. At the time there were very few studies of indoor tanning and BCC. Then in 2009, IARC classified tanning devices that emit UV light as Group 1 carcinogens, in the same category as tobacco smoke, asbestos and X-rays. In 2012, an updated analysis of all of the epidemiology studies on indoor tanning and BCC (including the Yale research) was published in BMJ and similarly concluded that indoor tanning was associated with an increased risk of BCC. Many health and medical organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Dermatology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have recommended that people avoid indoor tanning altogether.

A similar bill to restrict minor’s access to indoor tanning salons was proposed in Connecticut last year, but it failed to advance.

If the proposed legislation passes in the General Assembly, Connecticut would join only two other states—California and Vermont—that have so far banned indoor tanning outright for people under 18, although other states are now considering similar legislation. New York bans indoor tanning for those under 17 years old, while a number of states have enacted age-related restrictions on indoor tanning, most of which require parental permission for minors. 

This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on April 2, 2013.