Many scientific studies have linked skin cancers to the use of ultraviolet indoor tanning devices ["Expanding tan ban," News, May 11]. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that the risk for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, increases by 75 percent when using tanning beds before the age of 30. In teens, the risk may be even greater, since childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation and melanoma are linked.
Indoor tanning by teen girls is remarkably common, with 25 percent of girls 15 to 18 in one large study admitting exposure. Yet, despite the evidence of risk, many teens view tanning as healthy, attractive and cool.
A bill before the New York State Legislature would ban teens from using tanning beds. But despite approval by the Assembly and Senate health committees, the legislation has not reached the Senate floor.
Some arguments against this legislation have been economic: that it will harm small tanning businesses. But regardless of the state of our economy, no one would promote selling of cigarettes to teens as an economic benefit. The arguments for teen tanning are no stronger.
Prohibiting teens from indoor tanning would prevent cancers and save lives. But combining medical evidence with legislation would send an even more powerful message. This combination helped tarnish the fashionable image of smoking. It could do the same for tanning.
When political considerations stand in the way of an opportunity to produce such lasting benefit, it's time to reconsider them.
Dr. Peter L. Reisfeld
Editor's note: The writer is the immediate past president of the Long Island Dermatologic Society.