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Skin Cancer and Tanning Bed Debate Heats Up

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Spring Break is just around the corner and as winter weary students plan to head to the beach, the indoor tanning business is heating up. So is the national debate over the use of sunlamps and tanning beds.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and some members of Congress are pushing for new tougher regulations to keep tanning salon patrons—particularly young women—safe from the harmful effects of UV rays.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has sponsored H.R. 4520, known as The Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act to expand federal regulation of indoor tanning. If passed, the bill would limit the amount of harmful UV radiation emitted by tanning beds and the time consumers may be exposed to it.

The bill is in its infant stage right now, but it calls attention to a growing problem plaguing American society.

Skin cancer rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Each year, there are more than one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed, and at current rate, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now the second most common cancer in women ages 20-29.

“Tanning beds are the cigarettes of our time: cancer-causing and poorly regulated,” said Rep. Maloney. “Those who use start using tanning beds before the age of 30 have a 75 percent higher risk of developing melanoma. Every hour, one American dies of this disease. Through education and improved regulation, we can save lives.”

Last summer, The World Health Organization’s cancer division reclassified tanning beds as definitive cancer-causers, right alongside the ultraviolet radiation that they and natural sunshine emit. They'd long been considered "probable" carcinogens, but what tipped the scale was a FDA analysis of numerous studies that concluded the risk of melanoma jumps by 75 percent in people who used tanning beds in their teens and 20s.

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