Study confirms skin cancer risk of indoor tanning, but state bill on teen ban stalled in House

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Few would be surprised to hear the results of a new study published in the British Medical Journal that indoor tanning has once again been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer. The analysis of 12 studies found that people who developed common, non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma were far more likely to have used tanning beds than those who had not.

If it’s really true that indoor tanning leads to the development of skin cancer in some people, it would account for 170,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers every year, the study authors estimate.

Previous research has linked indoor tanning to a higher risk of melanoma, a deadlier type of skin cancer.

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An editorial that accompanied the study called for a tanning tax across Europe to reduce the use of tanning beds, much like increased cigarettes taxes in the United States cut down on smoking rates. (The Affordable Care Act levied a 10 percent tax on tanning salon services that went into effect two years ago, but that’s far smaller than the 30 to 40 percent tax some states require for cigarettes.)

A handful of states including Rhode Island now have laws on the books restricting the use of indoor tanning by teens—who are at greater risk than older adults of developing skin cancer from using tanning beds— but a Massachusetts bill that cleared the Senate last June has been stalled in the House.

The bill would ban anyone under age 16 from using a tanning device without a written order from a doctor and requires those who are 16 or 17 to get written consent from their parents.

It’s still, though, under review before it will move to the floor for a full House vote. “We’re still taking a look at it to make sure everything’s good to go,” said David Amstutz, research director for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He said he couldn’t predict when or if the bill would move forward for a vote; but if it doesn’t occur before the new session starts at the beginning of January, it might not happen at all.

The Indoor Tanning Association has said it “strongly supports parental consent which is already the law in New Jersey and other states.” However, the industry group said that it’s against banning the use of tanning beds in teens, which has been supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations.