Lawmakers aim to prevent minors from using tanning beds

By The Mercury

TOPEKA — Carley Johnson has used tanning beds a little in her life, beginning when she was in middle school. Her mom and friends had frequented tanning salons before, so Carley went with her friends a few times to try it for herself.

Shortly afterward Carleyís mom, Rebecca Johnson, was diagnosed with non-melanoma basal cell skin cancer, which is one of the most common forms of skin cancer.

“My mom used to use tanning beds all the time and she did end up getting skin cancer from it,” said Johnson, now a senior at Olathe East High School. “That was a pretty big reason for me not to do it anymore. I prefer actually going outside in the sun if I want to tan.”

Rebecca Johnson of Overland Park said she and Carley stopped using tanning beds after she was diagnosed and treated. They both decided that the danger was not worth the risk.

“Carley has very fair skin and doesn’t really tan easily,” Johnson, 48, said. “She’s a much higher candidate for any kind of melanoma or skin cancer.”

Kansas’ lawmakers have joined a national effort to protect minors from excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is linked to an increased risk of skin cancer, especially among younger individuals.

In January, representatives proposed House bill 2435, which would establish the Kansas Tanning Facilities Act. It would be illegal for tanning facilities to give minors access to tanning devices. Individuals under the age of 18 would not be allowed to use a professional facility’s tanning bed, unless a doctor gave written permission.

ACCORDING to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the belief that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning is a myth. The level of UV exposure from tanning beds can vary based on the type of light bulbs used and the age of the person, which could result in greater skin damage.

In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an affiliate of the World Health Organization, listed ultraviolet-emitting tanning devices as “carcinogenic to humans,” which placed tanning beds in the same group as cigarettes. Six states have already banned the use of tanning beds by minors, including California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont.

Reagan Cussimanio, the director of government affairs with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told the House Health and Human Services Committee that several health organizations, in the U.S. and abroad, support laws protecting minors from the danger associated with tanning beds.

“Similar age restrictions on harmful substances and services have been placed on tobacco products and alcohol,” Cussimanio testified. “Restricting access to indoor tanning bed use based on age is no different.”

In the U.S. alone, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, making it the most prevalent form of cancer, according to the American Cancer Societyís 2014 Facts and Figures Report. Incidence of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, has increased for at least 30 years. Incidence among whites, who are 23 times more likely than African Americans to develop melanoma, increased by 2.7 percent each year from 2006 to 2010.

According to the IARC, studies show that the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent for individuals who begin using tanning beds before the age of 30. And two surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 and 2011, found that 13 percent of high school students used tanning beds, including 29 percent of white high school girls.


JOSH Mammen, the Kansas chair for the Commission on Cancer, and a surgical oncologist based in Kansas City, told the House committee that some risk factors for melanoma are inherent, such as having moles and light skin color. However, exposure to UV radiation is modifiable.

“Limiting the use of tanning beds by minors will have profound implications in reducing their risk of skin malignancy,” Mammen said.

The American Cancer Societyís 2014 report estimates that there will be 76,100 new cases of melanoma in the U.S. this year, with 780 new cases in Kansas. Although melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, it’s responsible for most skin cancer fatalities. It’s estimated to account for 8,710 deaths in 2014.

Joseph Levy, the scientific advisor to the American Suntanning Association, and executive director of the International Smart Tan Network, testified in support of the bill but said more attention should be given to the avoidance of sunburn instead of the elimination of sunbed tanning. He noted that an appropriate balance of UV exposure has healthy benefits, and a tan helps to prevent sunburn.

“Many proponents of restricting access to sunbeds have not effectively respected that crucial aspect of the science,” Levy said.

There was little opposition to House bill 2435 during the hearing but some argued that tanning was beneficial in providing necessary vitamin D. However, passage of the law could result in a loss of customers and revenue for licensed tanning facilities. In addition, facilities could face fines of up to $250 for each violation of the law.

At the hearing, Celsius Tannery owner Roger Holmes said passage of the bill would affect less than 4 percent of its customer base at its 11 Kansas locations. According to Holmes, Celsius prohibits tanning for individuals under the age of 14, and requires parental consent for those under 18.

Rebecca Johnson said she thinks minors should need parental permission to use a tanning bed, but the requirement for a doctor’s permission is excessive.

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