Many teens are heading to tanning salons in the mistaken belief that salon tans are safe. But artificial tanning is not risk-free. The intensity of ultraviolet radiation produced by tanning beds is 10-15 times higher than the sun. Ultraviolet radiation is a known human carcinogen.

Utah has the nation's highest rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and it is becoming more common in adolescents. Teens are enticed by salon packages offering unlimited visits and the promise of beauty. Warning signs are not prominently posted. Counseling provided about the risks of tanning is often inaccurate.

Tanning causes skin wrinkling, age spots and various skin cancers. Ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds penetrates the skin more deeply causing more immediate problems including retina damage, cataracts, inflamed blood vessels, itching and allergic rashes. Although sunscreen can prevent sunburn, it has not been shown to prevent melanoma or basal cell carcinoma. There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

Pediatricians stand with the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and American Academy of Dermatology in supporting legislation limiting access to tanning salons by teens under 18 years, except with parental permission or under the supervised care of a medical provider.

Karen F. Buchi

Past President, Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Salt Lake City