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An Age Restriction on Indoor Tanning Could Reduce Melanoma Rates, Lower Treatment Costs

Legally preventing people under the age of 18 to go indoor tanning may reduce the number of Americans with melanoma, ultimately decreasing treatment costs, according to a recent study.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED February 13, 2017
Putting an age restriction on indoor tanning would lower the incidence of melanoma, potentially saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars in treatment costs, according to a recent study published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
 
A team of researchers from the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CDC in Atlanta examined the health and economic benefits of reducing indoor tanning in the United States.
 
Their findings seem to show that the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) December 2015 proposal to make a nationwide age restriction on indoor tanning for minors under the age of 18 would be beneficial. The FDA’s proposal also included a risk acknowledgement form that all adults would have to sign before using indoor tanning devices.
 
The CDC research team, led by Gery P. Guy Jr., Ph.D., M.P.H., estimated the expected number of melanoma cases and deaths averted, life-years saved and melanoma treatment costs saved by reducing indoor tanning. “We examined five scenarios: restricting indoor tanning among minors younger than 18 years, and reducing the prevalence by 20 percent, 50 percent, 80 percent and 100 percent,” stated the authors on the study.
 
“To our knowledge, this study provides the first quantitative estimates of the health benefits and melanoma treatment cost-savings of reducing indoor tanning in the United States.”
 
Researchers found that restricting indoor tanning among minors younger than 18 years old was estimated to prevent 61,839 melanoma cases and prevent 6,735 melanoma deaths. Researchers also determined that an age restriction could save $342.9 million in treatment costs over the lifetime of the 61.2 million youth age 14 years or younger in the US.
 
“Despite the risks, indoor tanning remains common in the United States,” the authors noted.. “An estimated 11.3 million Americans engaged in indoor tanning in 2013, 1.6 million of whom are younger than 18 years. Among high school students, 5 percent of boys and 20 percent  of girls engaged in indoor tanning in 2013.”
Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia currently have age restrictions preventing all minors from indoor tanning, while state laws in Oregon and Washington only allow minors to use indoor tanning with a doctor’s prescription. Twelve other states have regulations preventing minors within specific age ranges (such as 14-17 years old) from tanning.
 
One limitation was noted on the study; researchers did not examine compliance to indoor tanning laws.
 
Several past studies have linked indoor tanning to an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, due to the high exposure to ultraviolet radiation. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology lists that using indoor tanning beds before age 35 can increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 59 percent, and that risk increases with each use.
 
The rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years, according to the American Cancer Society. While melanoma accounts for 1 percent of skin cancers, it causes a large majority of deaths from skin cancer.
 
The American Cancer Society estimates that 87,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed this year alone, and 9,730 people are expected to die from it.
 
“These findings help quantify and underscore the importance of continued efforts to reduce indoor tanning and prevent melanoma,” stated the authors.
 
 
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