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CDC: Restrictions on Tanning Can Be Effective

Update Date: Feb 14, 2014 09:33 AM EST

Despite several studies that have tied excessive indoor tanning to an increased risk of skin cancer, young teenage girls continue to subject their skin to such harsh conditions. According to a new study, there might be an effective way of discouraging girls and other groups of people from entering tanning salons. The researchers reported that certain restrictions, such as age limitations and warning signs, could be effective in reducing the number of teenagers who use tanning booths.

For this study, the researchers headed by Dr. Gery Guy from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined surveys that were conducted in 2009 and 2011. The researchers had information on about 26,000 students. The researchers found that around 23 percent of teenage high school girls reported using indoor tanning booths. For high school boys, the percentage fell to 6.5 percent.

When the researchers examined states' laws, they found that when tanning salons enforced any kind of laws, teenage girls were 30 percent less likely to tan indoors. More specifically, the researchers tied tanning salons that required parental permission for teenagers to use the facilities and posted up warning signs about the consequences of tanning to a 42 percent reduction in the likelihood of tanning indoors for teenage girls. The researchers did not find any changes in the rates of tanning for boys.

The researchers reported that age restrictions alone were not effective in reducing the number of teenagers who tanned indoors. The team reasoned that children who use indoor tanning booths most likely have at least one parent using them as well. Therefore, getting parental consent might be easy. The team also stated that teenage boys did not appear to be affected by these restrictions because they generally started tanning at a much older age.

"State indoor tanning laws, especially age restrictions, may be effective in reducing indoor tanning among our nation's youth," said Guy, PhD, reported by the Sacramento Bee. "We need to address the harms of indoor tanning, especially among children. Indoor tanning laws can be part of a comprehensive effort to prevent skin cancers and change social norms around tanned skin."

California was the first state to ban all children under 18-years-old from tanning salons. Now, six states have enforced this ban while 12 others have set age limits for children aged 17 or younger. 28 states currently require parental permission. Within the U.S., skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. There are about 3.5 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers treated per year and more than 60,000 melanomas diagnosed per year.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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