Yale School of Public Health’s skin cancer research helped support legislation
A measure to protect minors from the potentially harmful rays emitted by indoor tanning devices is now state law after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the legislation this week.
Public Act 13-79 will make it illegal for people under 17 to tan indoors. The law goes into effect October 1.
The new state law was prompted in part by research recently completed at the Yale School of Public Health that found a strong link between even moderate indoor tanning and the risk of basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.
The Yale research, published in 2012, 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 indoor tanned, the vast majority of which occurred in commercial tanning facilities. Furthermore, the study concluded that nearly half of early-onset BCCs in women could be avoided if they never tanned indoors.
“Passage of this legislation accomplishes two things. It protects Connecticut minors from early-life exposures that are now recognized as cancer-causing. It also sends a strong message to adults that indoor tanning is a recognized health risk, countering some of the misinformation put forth by the industry,” said Susan T. Mayne, the C.-E. A. Winslow Professor of Epidemiology and a cancer epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. Mayne was the senior epidemiologist on the study and testified on the bill’s behalf in March during a public hearing that stretched into the early morning.
The Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly noted that the Yale study was instrumental in the passing of the legislation this year (similar bills had failed in previous years). In addition to basal cell carcinoma, indoor tanning has recently been linked to squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.
“Recent research, including the Yale School of Public Health’s work on indoor tanning and basal cell carcinoma, has demonstrated that using indoor tanning facilities drastically increases the likelihood that an individual will develop a form of life-threatening skin cancer,” said State Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford), Vice-Chair of the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee. “Teens who tan indoors may be unaware of the consequences they can face later on in life. This law will help raise awareness, and protect them from the dangers of being exposed to UV radiation.”
“The ultimate goal of public health research is to use the findings to impact the health of the public. Our work at the Yale School of Public Health on evaluating the risk of indoor tanning on basal cell carcinoma in young people has helped educate and influence legislatures on the harmful effects of indoor tanning which has resulted in the passage of [this measure],” said Brenda Cartmel, a research scientist and lecturer at the School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors.
While a number of states have considered legislation to curb access to indoor tanning, Connecticut is now one of only several states that have taken steps to restrict minor’s access to indoor tanning. A number of other states have or are considering legislation that restricts access.
The bill was supported by a large coalition of medical and public health organizations and was overwhelmingly approved by the public health committee after its March hearing. It then moved to the full legislature and received strong support by the state Senate and then the House of Representatives. Gov. Malloy signed the legislation Wednesday.
“I was absolutely delighted when I heard that Governor Malloy had signed the bill banning indoor tanning for minors,” said Dean Paul Cleary. “This is a perfect example how collaborative research and dissemination efforts can translate scientific findings into policy that will improve the health of our communities.”
Despite support for the measure, it was not without opposition. Several representatives from the tanning industry testified against the bill. They argued that the decision to tan indoors should be a personal choice and not regulated by the government. They also claimed that a number of factors contribute to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and that ultraviolet exposure from tanning beds is not a “clear cut” cause. Additionally, they maintained that the state’s indoor tanning salon industry, some 100 outlets, has already implemented voluntary restrictions, which require parental permission for minors.
The Yale researchers note that the connection between indoor tanning and skin cancer is widely accepted, including by the International Agency for Research on cancer, which classifies tanning devices in the same risk category as tobacco.
“The passage of this bill banning indoor tanning by minors under age 17 is wonderful for cancer prevention in the state of Connecticut,” said Leah M. Ferrucci, associate research scientist at the School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors. “Research, including our own, has made clear that indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, yet legislative action was necessary because the risks of indoor tanning are still not well understood by the general public. With this legislation, there is now the potential to halt initiation of indoor tanning by the young people of Connecticut, which could in turn, help to reverse the pattern of increasing incidence of skin cancer in young people.”
This Article was submitted by Denise L Meyer, on Friday, June 07, 2013.