Australia Bans Tanning Salons

US Politician Has 'Tanning Obsession'

Nick Mulcahy

January 20, 2015

UPDATED January 21, 2015 // Tanning salons are now banned in most of Australia, a country with the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.

The ban is seen as a victory for cancer organizations that mounted a campaign against the businesses.

The ban on "commercial solariums" took effect on January 1 in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria, according to news reports.

The only state not on that list, Western Australia, will enact a ban at the end of 2015. There are no commercial solariums in the Northern Territory.

An Australian public health advocate praised the ban, especially for its potential impact on young people.

"This is our greatest opportunity to stop the next generation using [sunbeds] in the first place," Vanessa Rock, from the National Skin Cancer Committee in New South Wales, said in a press report.

Brazil is the only other country with a similar ban; it was introduced there in 2009.

However, Australia is the first country in the world to have seen a fall in its skin cancer rates, although it is just a small reduction in levels of melanoma and nonmelanoma in the under-45 age group, according to a news report.

According to Terry Slevin, from the Cancer Council of Western Australia, this is evidence that public health campaigns like "slip, slop, slap" (which encourages the public to slip on clothes, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat) are working. In fact, a recent Cancer Council report showed that Australian Medicare data from 2000 to 2011 revealed a 2% reduction in skin cancer treatments in people 25 to 34 years of age, and a 1% reduction in those 35 to 44 years.

Indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the World Health Organization considers ultraviolet tanning devices to be a cause of cancer in humans (Lancet Oncol. 2009;10:751-752).

Tanning beds are popular and common in the United States and Europe.

However, in the United States, major political action against tanning salons seems unlikely. One of the most powerful politicians in America, John Boehner (R-Ohio), is a regular user of tanning beds.

Boehner, who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has a "tanning obsession," which is ignored by the media and public health officials, medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, PhD, from New York University in New York City, said in an essay published in the Chicago Tribune.

An estimated 30 million Americans annually visit indoor tanning salons, which are a $5 billion-a-year industry, writes Dr Caplan, who is a Medscape contributor.

The US Food and Drug Administration now requires that tanning-bed products carry warnings about the risk for skin cancer in user instructions, brochures, and marketing materials.

The cancer risk is heightened in people younger than 35 years, according to previous research, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Nevertheless, in the United States, it was recently reported that 48% of the country's top 125 universities (so ranked by US News and World Report) have tanning salons available either on campus or near the campus.

However, laws are now in place to ban people younger than 18 years of age from using tanning beds in seven American states (California was first in 2011). France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and many Canadian provinces have similar bans.


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