Australia becomes second country to ban tanning beds to stem skin cancer risk
By Andy Koopmans
Australia is serious about cracking down on skin cancer and to prove it the government has banned the use of tanning beds, as reported in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.
The use of tanning beds has been clearly linked to increased incidence of the disease, and Australia has one of the highest skin-cancer rates in the world, accounting for more than 80 percent of all the newly-diagnosed cancers there. In the WSJ article, David Davis, health minister for the Australian state of Victoria, cites a study estimating that 1 in 6 melanomas in young Australians 18 to 29 years old could be prevented if tanning salons were closed down.
Before the ban, Australia already regulated the use of tanning beds, as do several countries in the European Union as well as Canada, New Zealand and the United States. With the ban in place, Australia becomes the second country, after with Brazil, to ban all use of the devices completely.
Tanning beds are popular in the United States, especially among young Caucasian women. A recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the use of them was on the rise among non-Hispanic white women aged 18 to 34 years old despite the well-publicized risks. The study also showed that indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, by 59 to 79 percent while use before the age of 25 increases non-melanoma skin cancer risk 40 to 102 percent, with a nearly 2 percent increase with each additional tanning session per year. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. and melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,600 cases in 2013.
Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned against the use of tanning beds for years, indicating that they pose a serious health risk. Several U.S. states restrict their usage, particularly for minors, and in May the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed an order to require warnings about skin cancer risks to be placed on tanning beds and promotional material related to indoor tanning.
According to Dr. Margaret M. Madeleine of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers include:
- a history of severe sunburn
- having light eyes, hair and skin
- a personal or family history of skin cancer
- having a large number of moles
- being older or immunosuppressed
- having undergone an organ or bone marrow transplant
- taking antibiotics or other photosensitizing drugs