Tanning-salon business built on deception…only in America ? Unlikely.

ABC World News (Jan 2, story 8, 2:25, Sawyer) reported, “Here’s a surprising fact we learned today. There are more tanning salons in America than there are Starbucks. It is a huge, booming business. But some members of Congress warned today that it is also built on massive deception.” ABC News correspondent Jim Avila explained that “nearly two years ago, the FDA’s own experts, along with pediatricians and dermatologists, recommended a ban on indoor tanning for minors. But the tanning lobbyists have spent nearly $500,000 since, defending the industry’s health claims. And, so far, no FDA action,” despite the fact that “there is no safe indoor tan.”

The National Journal (Feb 2, Sanger-Katz, Subscription Publication) reports, “A secret-shopper study (pdf) by House Democratic staffers found that tanning-salon employees routinely lied about the risks of indoor tanning, and frequently provided misleading information suggesting that tanning had health benefits.” The investigative report, “commissioned by the Energy and Commerce Committee minority staff, involved interviews with 300 salons around the country. Staffers posed as 16-year-old, fair-skinned girls, and asked salons whether tanning was safe, whether it caused cancer specifically, and how often they should visit, among other questions.” The study found that “salons routinely gave inaccurate information,” with some 90% saying that tanning posed no risks to health.

According to the USA Today (Feb 2, Bacon) “On Deadline” blog, “the investigative report from the minority staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics calls indoor tanning beds ‘generally unsafe for children’ and recommends they be banned for kids under 18.” The report points out that “indoor tanning is a potent source of ultraviolet radiation, especially UVA,” and that “the UVA radiation emitted by these devices can be as much as 10 to 15 times more powerful than midday sunlight.”

On its website, CBS News (Feb 2, Cordes) points out that the “risk of melanoma goes up 75 percent when tanning bed use begins before the age of 30.” Currently, “melanoma is the most common form of cancer among white women between 15 and 29. And the rate of melanoma in that age group has risen 50 percent since the 1980s, as tanning salons have proliferated.” With these facts in mind, “some House Democrats, such as Calif. Rep. Henry Waxman, are urging the Food and Drug Administration to consider reclassify tanning beds as unsafe for minors.”

On its website, ABC News (Feb 2, Conley) quotes Suzanne Connolly, MD, FAAD, vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology, who stated, “The potential effect of this report is huge.” Dr. Connolly added, “We must grab the attention of our population and educate them. It’s a big opportunity for improving health by reducing risk through education.” Dr. Connolly went on to say that “the AAD applauds the committee for taking the initiative to undertake the investigation.”

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