A Report That The “Tanning Mom” Won’t Like

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Cases of melanoma have increased sharply in New York over the past decade, mainly due to an increase in indoor tanning, a report today by the American Cancer Society charged, Gannett’s Aaron Scholder reports.

The report said cases of melanoma went up 72 percent in the state over a 10-year period from 1998 to 2008. The study looked at data over four-year periods from 1994-1998 and 2004-2008 and found that incidents of melanoma increased on average from 9.2 percent to 15.8 percent.

The report buoyed attempts by state lawmakers and health groups to pass a ban on the use of tanning beds by teenagers under 18. The bill has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Currently, teenagers between 14 and 18 are allowed to use tanning beds as long as they have parental consent. The bill comes in advance of prom season, when teenagers may be prone to seek a quick tan at a local tanning shop, officials said.

At a press conference on Thursday, representatives from the Cancer Society joined with melanoma sufferers and dermatologists to say the increase in melanoma was mainly due to a proliferation of use of tanning beds.

“I think it’s hard for parents to give informed consent when they’re being exposed to lies from the tanning bed industry,” said Russ Sciandra, the director of advocacy for the Cancer Society, who added that tanning industry representatives often say a base tan is healthy. “These things are not true. That they’re able to put out this information is part of the reason why government needs to step in to protect children.”

John Overstreet, a spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, said the data used by the Cancer Society is based on opinion and not facts.

He said the supervision provided at tanning salons is enough of a safeguard to protect against overexposure that they might get outside.

“You take that away and what (children) are going to do is they’re going to go outside, go to the pool, go to the beach, with no supervision, no one telling them to be moderate. They’re more likely to get sunburned,” Overstreet said. “It’s the law of unintended consequences. They just don’t think through what they’re doing.”

Advocates for the bill, though, said any exposure to tanning beds is dangerous. They said the ultraviolet rays used in tanning beds can be particularly harmful to the skin and increase risk for melanoma, the second-most common form of cancer for people aged 15-29, according to the Cancer Society.

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