It's been a tough year for the U.S. indoor tanning industry.
In March of 2010, the largest case-control study of its kind, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found "strong evidence that indoor tanning is a risk factor for melanoma."
Researchers led by Dr. DeAnn Lazovich of the University of Minnesota compared the tanning bed use of nearly 1,200 Minnesotans with a history of invasive melanoma against that of a similar number of healthy controls. Those who had used the devices were 74 percent more likely than nonusers to have developed a melanoma; if the tanning bed emitted UVA radiation only, users’ risk more than quadrupled. Risk also rose with frequency and duration of tanning bed use, the researchers found.
"Our study shows that there is no such thing as a safe [tanning] device," Dr. Lazovich concluded in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.
Within the same week, an expert advisory panel convened by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended by majority vote that people under the age of 18 be barred from using commercial tanning beds, with a minority advising less stringent measures, such as parental consent for minors. In their report, the panel also agreed that tanning beds be reclassified from their present status as Class I ("low risk") medical devices to either Class II or III — paving the way to greater oversight and regulation by the FDA.
The experts also urged "more prominent" posting of warnings, and even a mechanism "by which the tanning bed user would be required to read and accept a series of warnings about the risks of indoor tanning before the tanning bed would activate."
While the FDA is not required to act on its advisory panel recommendations, it usually does.
The indoor tanning industry took yet another hit in 2010 — the passage of the Obama Administration’s health care reform package, which included a 10 percent tax on customers patronizing indoor tanning facilities.
None of this bothers Dr. Allan Halpern, Vice President of The Skin Cancer Foundation, who testified before the advisory panel in support of tougher restrictions on tanning bed use.
"The science reinforces the contribution of tanning to skin cancer, including melanoma," he said. "If enforced, the regulations we are suggesting have the potential to reduce the incidence of skin cancer which is now occurring at epidemic levels."