FDA mandates stricter warnings on tanning beds

NEW ULM – Within the next few months all new tanning beds and sun lamps will be mandated to carry new warnings against use by customers under 18.

The new nationwide regulation is part of increased action to reduce cases of skin cancer. In May, Minnesota passed a law banning minors from using indoor tanning devices.

Medical groups estimate 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year. Melanoma is strongly linked to sun exposure at a young age. While most cases are diagnosed in people over age 40, the American Academy of Dermatology cites melanoma as the second-most common form of cancer among young adults.

Many health officials believe the growing popularity of indoor tanning has led to the increase in skin cancer. It is estimated that over 2 million U.S. teenagers use indoor tanning devices each year – prompting the labeling to target this at- risk demographic. Data promoting tanning bed products must also include warnings regarding cancer risks. The disclaimers must specifically warn against use if a person already has skin cancer or a history of skin cancer.

Some in the tanning bed industry are concerned the new labels will have an adverse effect on businesses.

Local New Ulm tanning salon, Body Essentials, has not seen any slow down in business due the FDA’s ruling last week. Salon employee Leigh Ann Oswald estimated that on any given day 45-60 customers use the salon’s tanning beds. Most clients come in on a regular basis that is dependent on skin type and level of tan. Last Tuesday’s schedule included 74 appointments. According to Oswald this figure actually represents a decrease since prom season ended.

Body Essentials already provides some safety features. Eye protection is required, and the salon restricts pregnant women from using the beds. The salon also monitors the age of the bulbs used in the beds because newer lights produce greater levels of UV.

Prior to the change in Minnesota laws, parental approval was needed before minors could use tanning devices.

Tanning salon customers may expect to see the new warning labels by 2015. The FDA regulation set a deadline of 15 months for companies with devices already in use but no longer marketed. For new tanning devices the warning label compliance must be met within 90 days.

In addition to the FDA labeling requirements, tanning beds and sun lamps have been reclassified higher risk, class II devices. This action will force the manufacturers of tanning devices to seek clearance from the FDA before marketing new products.

The FDA’s intention is to increase awareness of skin cancer risks. Currently, the requirements only apply to manufactures of indoor tanning devices and not the salon operators. FDA Deputy Director, Nancy Stade commented these laws are intended to educate the customers and not to burden salons.

The American Cancer Society expects melanoma will cause over 9,000 deaths this year.

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