You may want to think twice before hopping into that brightly lit ultraviolet capsule in the tanning salon. Tanning beds are a leading cause of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
It’s been enough to make several states pass a bill banning people under the age of 18 from using tanning beds.
California and Vermont have passed bills banning use of tanning beds by minors, and 10 other states have less-restricted bans for minors of different ages. Thirty-nine states have introduced legislation proposing bans from 2009-2012.
A bill introduced by Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel banning minors under the age of 18 from frequenting tanning salons died in the Florida Senate in March, according to the Florida Senate 2012 bill listing.
In Florida, where natural sunshine is abundant, the tanning salons are not the only means of obtaining the bronzed look that has become such a trend. One student outside of the UCF Leisure Pool at the Recreation and Wellness Center says that she never uses tanning beds.
“I don’t go out of my way to tan," said Alex Poirier, a junior majoring in event planning. “I would rather just go outside.”
During the past 10 years, new cases of melanoma have spiked in New York, according to a recent analysis by the American Cancer Society.
“It’s no coincidence that we’re facing a melanoma crisis at the same time there’s a proliferation of indoor tanning salons,” states Russ Sciandra, Director of Advocacy for the American Cancer Society of NY & NJ, in an article published by the American Cancer Society online. "Indoor tanning increases risk of developing cancer. Many teens don’t see their behavior as dangerous and many parents don’t fully understand what’s at stake. That’s why the Senate must act to protect minors by enacting a ban on indoor tanning for those under age 18.”
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that 58 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 believe people look more attractive with a tan, and 71 percent agreed with the statement “sun exposure is good for your health.”
This demonstrates the main issue at hand: Too many people are unaware of the negative effects of too much sun exposure.
Jillian Dunbar, a senior finance student outside the Recreation and Wellness Center gave a different perspective on tanning — use moderation.
“I use tanning beds but not often," Dunbar said. "I would say on average, about once a month. I always use great skin protection though and use protective eyewear.”
Many tanning salons now are offering a new type of sunless tanning.
“I do spray tanning because I simply don’t have the time to go out to the pool or beach,” local store owner and mother Maria Rodriquez said.
Spray tanning can be convenient for those who work a lot and still want to keep up their tan in a safe way. UCF-area tanning salon Sol y Luna offers both traditional tanning beds as well as Mystic Tan, which is a form of sunless tanning administered as a spray tan.
The guidelines for UV tanning beds are still pretty strict even though the state of Florida allows minors to use them, Sol y Luna manager Alyssa Bassani, a recent UCF graduate with a degree in psychology, said.
“You must be 18 years old to tan without parental consent," Bassani said. "If you are at least 16 then you must have a parent or guardian bring in a signed consent form. We allow 14- or 15-year-olds to tan, but they must be accompanied by a parent each time. This is in adherence to the Florida Health Department guidelines.
“In addition, we also require that customers read and sign a form that informs them of the risks of UV tanning. They must wear protective eyewear as well to prevent cataracts.”
The stakes are high when one decides to use tanning beds on any sort of basis. Though there are new alternatives to UV tanning, such as spray tanning, new cases of melanoma are on the rise.
The American Cancer Society urges people between the ages of 18 and 29 to become more aware of the facts and begin to take them seriously.