California Enacts the Most Restrictive Indoor Tanning Law in the Country

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Noted dermatologist Joshua Fox, MD, applauds the new CA Law banning teen indoor tanning and hopes that other states follow suit.

On October 9, 2011 California Governor Edmund Brown signed a bill into law that will prohibit the use of indoor tanning devices for all Californians under the age of 18. According to Joshua Fox, MD and founder and director of New York and New Jersey-based Advanced Dermatology, “interestingly, California has been leading the way in helping to reduce the incidence of skin cancer for a long time. In 2004, then Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger signed the bill that would make teen visits to a tanning salon illegal in California without parental consent. “We applaud California’s efforts and hope that other states take note of California’s proactive position on reducing skin cancer and follow suit,” adds Dr. Fox.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology on a daily basis more than 1 million people tan in a tanning salon. Nearly 70% of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian females, primarily aged 16-29 years. And nearly 28 million people tan indoors in the United States annually. Of these, 2.3 million are teens.

“The short-term, bronzing effects of tanning bed use are simply not worth the long-term consequences of increased skin cancer risk and premature aging,” adds Dr. Fox. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency of Research on Cancer has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, including tanning beds and sun lamps, as known carcinogens (a cancer-causing agent). Studies have found a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma in those exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning. Evidence from studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Additional studies show that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells and can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression and eye damage.

Why the Surge in Melanoma Cases?
Dr. Fox concurs that the increased use of tanning beds by teenagers has contributed to the sharp rise in melanoma rates. Melanoma is linked to excessive sun exposure particularly in the first 10 to 19 years of life.

“The reason teens are so at risk is that they are still experiencing such tremendous growth at the cellular level,” Dr. Fox explains. “Their skin cells, like every other cell in their bodies, are dividing more rapidly than they do when we reach adulthood. And the more rapidly cells change, the higher the chances are that they will change detrimentally particularly when hit by the deleterious affects of the sun, and potentially cancer will develop.”

Why the Surge in Tanning Bed Interest?
Many surveys have found that teens put tanning sessions at the tops of their “to-do” lists for one reason: vanity. From high school proms to college homecomings, from “date night” to “girls’ night out,” teens are aware of the cultural and societal pressures to look their best, and many of them have turned to tanning salons to help them in their quest. According to Dr. Fox, tanning has been shown to release endorphins which give the teen a natural high. This encourages them in an almost addictive manner to continue tanning.

The Future of the Issue
“We hope that other states around the country will have the same foresight and courage about this issue and pass laws similar to California. Mostly we hope that with the cooperative efforts of well-informed teenagers, involved parents, dedicated physicians and assertive organizational leaders at the local, state and federal levels, that we can reduce the risk of serious illness, and sometimes even death, associated with the use of these destructive tanning beds,” adds Dr. Fox.

About Dr. Fox: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., earned his medical degree from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He completed an internship at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, followed by a three-year dermatology residency at the New York University School of Medicine. A Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Fox is a leading authority in the field of dermatology, with an expertise in skin cancer, acne, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is the author of many dermatologic publications. He is the founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. of New York and New Jersey and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery and is a spokesman for both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. He is the director of a fellowship program in Laser & Cosmetic Surgery. Dr. Fox is also the founder and President of The New Age Research Foundation, a national, non-profit [501 (C) (3)] health organization committed to improving the quality of life of those with skin conditions through research and education.


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