The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) applauds the Oregon State Legislature for demonstrating national leadership in cancer prevention by passing a bill to restrict the use of indoor tanning devices by minors.
House Bill 2896, which was passed by the Oregon Senate today and is expected to be signed into law by the governor, addresses the state’s high skin cancer death rates. The bill restricts children younger than 18 from using tanning devices, unless proof of a physician exemption is provided. Only two other states, California and Vermont, have similar bans.
“It is heartening to see Oregon set an example for the rest of the nation in taking action to prevent cancer,” said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. “We at the Knight Cancer Institute congratulate all legislators and their staff who worked hard to take this important step forward.”
Druker testified for the bill before the House Committee on Health Care in February and the Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee in March.
“The science is clear. UV tanning beds cause cancer and they should be regulated, just as cigarettes are,” Druker said.
Druker and OHSU made skin cancer prevention a priority in large part because of the disproportionate toll it takes on Oregonians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Oregon fourth in the nation for its death rate from skin cancer; the melanoma death rate for women in Oregon is the highest in the country.
But it’s also an important issue nationally that is now on the radar of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Druker vigorously supports the FDA’s recent proposal to require manufacturers to place warnings on tanning beds and related promotional material. The order would also require agency approval to market the devices.
Tanning beds, booths and sun lamps expose a user to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a proven human carcinogen. This exposure has been linked with skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma. Indoor tanning can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by 20 percent. Each additional session during the same year boosts the risk about 2 percent, according to a 2012 study published in BMJ: British Medical Journal.
The practice of indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for young people. Those who begin to use indoor tanning devices before age 35 have a 75 percent higher risk of developing melanoma, according to research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The younger the exposure occurs, the higher the risk of developing cancer.
Oregon, like 33 other states, has had some restrictions on the use of tanning beds for children younger than 18. It has required a one-time parental consent. But these limited restrictions weren’t effective. A 2012 Congressional report estimates that 40 percent of white females between the ages of 16 and 18 visit commercial tanning facilities.
Further, based on an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s (JAMA) Dermatology, more people have had skin cancer in the past three decades than all other cancers combined.
“Today was an important milestone,” Druker said. “We hope that Oregon will serve as an example to other states on what they can do to stop a highly preventable form of cancer.”
Brian Druker, M.D., is director of the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute, associate dean for oncology in the OHSU School of Medicine, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research at OHSU, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.