NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FDA Issues Warning Against Minors Using Tanning Beds


Of the 30 million people using tanning beds each year, more than 2 million are teenagers.

That’s prompted the Food and Drug Administration to require warnings on tanning beds for minorsnot to use the devices.

Speaking to Sam Baker in this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Dornechia Carter, a dermatologist of Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explained the need for the warning.

The following information comes from theCenters for Disease Control.


The Centers for Disease Control says using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan -- or "indoor tanning" -- has been linked with skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma).


Indoor tanning exposes users to two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays, UV-A and UV-B, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin indoor tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a higher risk of getting melanoma, likely because of increased lifetime UV exposure. In fact, every time you tan you increase your risk of getting melanoma. Indoor tanning also can:

  • Cause premature skin aging, like wrinkles and age spots.
  • Change your skin texture.
  • Increase the risk of potentially blinding eye diseases.


“Tanning indoors is safer than tanning in the sun.”

Indoor tanning and tanning outside are both dangerous. Although indoor tanning devices operate on a timer, the exposure to UV rays can vary based on the age and type of light bulbs. Indoor tanning is designed to give you high levels of UV radiation in a short time. You can get a burn from tanning indoors, and even a tan indicates damage to your skin.

“A base tan will protect me from getting a sunburn.”

Indoor tanning does not protect against sunburn. In fact, a tan only provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of about 3 (CDC recommends sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15), so a tan does not provide enough protection against the sun. The important thing to remember is that a tan is a response to injury: skin cells respond to damage from UV rays by producing more pigment. The best way to protect your skin from the sun is by using these tips for skin cancer prevention.

“Indoor tanning is a safe way to get vitamin D, which prevents many health problems.”

Vitamin D is important for bone health, but its effect on other health problems is less clear. Although it is important to get enough vitamin D, the safest way is through diet or supplements. Tanning harms your skin, and the amount of UV exposure you need to get enough vitamin D is hard to measure because it is different for every person.

For more information

From KERA: Causes and Prevention of Skin Cancer