It is a general perception that people look better with a tan skin. This is the reason use of tanning salons has become a common practice among teenagers, especially females. In a national survey, 24% teenagers, aged 13 to 19 years found to use a tanning facility at least once. There has been several studies conducted in past that concludes tanning or exposure to UV radiation—whether from the sun or from artificial sources can lead to skin cancer. Recently American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a new policy statement and corresponding technical report, “Ultraviolet Radiation: a Hazard to Children and Adolescents,” to offer guidance to parents and pediatricians on skin cancer prevention.
AAP said it supports the legislation that would ban children under 18 using tanning beds or other artificial tanning devices. The latest guideline is based on accumulating data — not only about the risks of cancer from tanning beds — but about how often teens use them.
Tanning is caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sunlamps and tanning beds. There are two types of UV radiation that penetrate the skin during skin tanning. UV-B rays penetrate the top layers of skin and are most responsible for sunburns. However, UV-A rays penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin and are often associated with allergic reactions, such as a rash. During exposure to UV radiation (UV-B and UV-A rays), skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer.
According to the AAP report,...
the intensity of UV radiation produced by some tanning units can be 10 to 15 times higher than the midday sun.
AAP’s recommendations for pediatricians:
- Pediatricians should incorporate advice about ultraviolet exposure into health-supervision practices, including advice to avoid sunburning and suntanning, wearing clothing and hats with brims, and applying sunscreen.
- Sunscreen should be used whenever there is a risk of sunburn. Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher should be applied every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a
- Advice about ultraviolet exposure is especially important for children at high risk of cancer: those with light skin, nevi and/or freckling, or a family history of melanoma.
- Outdoor activity should be strongly encouraged, but in a “sun-safe” manner.
- Pediatricians should discuss about sun protection with children and parents together beginning at 9 or 10 years of age.
- Infants younger than 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight and covered with appropriate protective clothing and hats.
- Guidelines for vitamin D supplementation should be followed and all infants, children, and adolescents should receive at least 400 international units of vitamin D daily.
Currently, more than 60% of U.S. states regulate use of tanning facilities by minors and those regulatory efforts are increasing, the guidelines noted. Health experts advise that people should limit outdoor activities when the sun is high (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), wear UV-protectant sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and seek shade where possible.