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California Bans Underage Tanning Bed Use

You know, it’s kind of amazing to me that we need a law that says “HEY STUPID, DON’T DO THAT.”  You know, with anything though – toasters in the bath tub, hair dryers out in the yard in the sprinkler, and eating rat poison.  These things typically lead to instant death and destruction.  But WHY IS IT that, even after a study in 2010 that said, OUT LOUD, that people who use tanning beds are at least three IF NOT FOUR times more likely to develop melanoma.

Doctors believe melanoma is a cancer caused by altering the DNA of cells by some kind of light, most believe the UV spectrum is to blame.  I mean, we use UV-C to clean things – when UV-C is applied to a surface, it doesn’t necessarily kill the germs and nasties, but it cripples them in such a way that they die anyway from having their DNA destroyed.  So, one would assume that, given the circumstances of this idea of a tanning bed using ultraviolet light to essentially put a nice golden crust on our skin would be a poor idea.  Right?  Here’s a picture of Kirstie McRae, a 14-year old two years ago who got 70% burned from overexposure in a tanning bed.  This kind of picture has GOT to stop people, right?

Oh, contrare, mo frere.  Regardless of the fact that you can get more than your share of tanning-able light by being outside, our vanity has suggested that we now must have a law to stop children from using tanning machines.  In California, a law has been passed to make it illegal for a business to allow someone under 18 to use a tanning bed.  From an article at Huffington Post:

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he had signed into law a bill that prevents children under 18 from using the popular tanning method. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Although Texas has banned the use of tanning beds for children under 16, SB746 bill makes California the first state to set a higher age limit. Thirty other states also have some age restrictions on the use, said the bill’s author, state Sen. Ted Lieu.

Under current law, children 14 and under in California already cannot use the beds, but those ages 15 to 17 can do so with permission from their parents. Illinois, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island have considered an age limit similar to California’s, but have yet to enact them, said the Democrat from Torrance, Calif.

The ban will hurt businesses, many of them owned by women, said the Indoor Tanning Association. About 5 percent to 10 percent of its members’ customers are under 18, the industry group noted.

I’m particularly interested in this comment, which talks about the societal pressures of tanning, which kind of makes me vomit in my mouth a wee bit:

“Girls in affluent California communities especially are surrounded by the message that being tanned all year round is cool,” Christina Clarke, of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, said in a recent statement supporting Lieu’s bill. “Pop music star Katy Perry is even singing about it.”

Ah, vanity.  We all have some degree of it.  But this has to be said, and please – men and women both – you have got to know.  We cover up ourselves all year round, some of us wear pants, some wear shirts, but for the most part, we hide a lot of our bodies from light.  When you decide to put on a swim suit and hit the beach, it’s perfectly okay that you’re white and pale, the human body is a beautiful thing.  Vanity isn’t worth the three or four times risk of developing melanoma.  Do you know what melanoma is?  Have you ever seen some images of it?  Here, let me help you!  I went to the National Library of Medicine to find some good ones for you!

So, this melanoma thing, it’s pretty nasty.  Tanning beds increase your risk of melanoma by three to four times.  Melanoma is the most fatal form of skin cancer, and it is the leading cause of death from skin cancer.  Tanning beds increase your risk of fatal cancer by three to four times.  How else can I put this?

From the Public Med Health website:

Melanoma is caused by changes in cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin and hair color. It can appear on normal skin, or it may begin as a mole or other area that has changed in appearance. Some moles that are present at birth may develop into melanomas.

There are four major types of melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type. It is usually flat and irregular in shape and color, with different shades of black and brown. It is most common in Caucasians.
  • Nodular melanoma usually starts as a raised area that is dark blackish-blue or bluish-red. However, some do not have any color.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma usually occurs in the elderly. It is most common in sun-damaged skin on the face, neck, and arms. The abnormal skin areas are usually large, flat, and tan with areas of brown.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma is the least common form. It usually occurs on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is more common in African Americans.

Rarely, melanomas appear in the mouth, iris of the eye, or retina at the back of the eye. They may be found during dental or eye examinations. Although very rare, melanoma can also develop in the vagina, esophagus, anus, urinary tract, and small intestine.

Melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer. However, the rate of melanoma is steadily increasing.

The risk of developing melanoma increases with age. However, it is also frequently seen in young people.

You are more likely to develop melanoma if you:

  • Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or red or blond hair
  • Live in sunny climates or at high altitudes
  • Spent a lot of time in high levels of strong sunlight, because of a job or other activities
  • Have had one or more blistering sunburns during childhood
  • Use tanning devices

Other risk factors include:

  • Close relatives with a history of melanoma
  • Coming in contact with cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, coal tar, and creosote
  • Certain types of moles (atypical dysplastic) or multiple birthmarks
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication

Gross.  Why would you voluntarily put yourself through this knowing the risk associated?!

Got any weird looking moles after prolonged sunbathing or tanning bed exposure?  Doctors are going to use the ABCDE method of examining your trouble spots, so you should know it too:

Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. Thinking of “ABCDE” can help you remember what to look for:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea (larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch).
  • Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.

In more advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. The skin on the surface may break down and look scraped. It may become hard or lumpy. The surface may ooze or bleed. Sometimes the melanoma is itchy, tender, or painful.

Happy Monday, everybody!

Thanks to Telegraph, WebMD,  and the American Cancer Society.

1 reply
  1. David Fox
    David Fox says:

    Thanks for including the A,B,C,D,E’s. I personally am all over this as I’ve had numerous removals of, luckily benign, melanomas. All of which were before the age of 18. And, I don’t go tanning, hate being out in the sun too long, work indoors (nearly in the dark) – but I am fair skinned and have blue eyes. Damn you genetics.

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