Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed order that will promote greater awareness of the dangers of sunlamp products and require product labeling that clearly articulates the risk of use.

The FDA will require labeling for tanning devices that: 

  • clearly informs consumers about the risks of using tanning beds,
  • warns frequent users of sunlamps to be regularly screened for skin cancer;
  • and alerts users that tanning lamps are not recommened for people under 18 years of age.

The American Academy of Dermatology has found that those who have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning increase their risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, by 75 percent.

Over 2 million young people tan every year and put themselves at risk of contracting melanoma as a result,” said Congressman Dent.

We are rightly concerned about preventing kids from smoking because of the cancer risk and other health risks. It doesn’t make sense to stay silent about the inherent danger these devices pose to people’s health. Parents and kids have the right to know the risk they’re taking,” Dent added.

The FDA’s order will also ensure proper regulation of the devices. Specifically, the order would reclassify sunlamp products from a class I, low risk device, such as bandages and tongue depressors, to a class II, moderate risk device. This decision reflects the scientific consensus that indoor tanning poses serious health risks. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its classification of the use of UV-emitting tanning devices to Group 1, placing tanning beds alongside tobacco, asbestos and uranium as a definite cause of cancer.  

In a 2008 report to Congress, the FDA acknowledged that tanning bed standards were in need of a contemporary assessment. And in 2010, after hearing from health professionals, scientists, tanning industry representatives, and consumers, an FDA advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency revise requirements for tanning beds and strengthen the warning labels.

Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) introduced the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act during the 111th and 112th Congress to prompt the FDA to reexamine the classification and labeling of tanning beds to ensure they accurately reflect the technology and associated risk.

Tuesday, Congressman Dent joined Senators Johnny Isakson (GA) and Jack Reed (RI) in attending a congressional briefing titled “Skin Cancer Awareness and the Dangers of Indoor Tanning” which was coordinated in cooperation with the American Academy of Dermatology Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American College of Mohs Surgery, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association, the American Society for Mohs Surgery, the Melanoma Research Foundation, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, and the Skin Cancer Foundation to raise awareness about melanoma, encourage early detection of skin cancer, and educate the public about sun safety strategies.

“In the greater scheme of Washington politics, this might seem like a small matter,” Dent said. “But one person dies every hour from melanoma in America. Doing the right thing by implementing this FDA order will have a big impact on fighting skin cancer,” concluded Dent.