WASHINGTON — Tanning beds and sun lamps will carry new warnings that they should not be used by anyone under age 18, part of a government action announced Thursday aimed at reducing rising rates of skin cancer linked to the radiation-emitting devices.
The Food and Drug Administration has regulated tanning machines for more than 30 years, but for the first time the agency is requiring manufacturers to warn consumers about the cancer risks of indoor tanning.
Makers of sunlamps and related devices must include a prominent label, known as a “black box” warning, on their devices, saying they should not be used by people under 18. Also, manufacturers must provide more warnings about cancer risks in pamphlets, catalogues and websites that promote their products. Those materials must warn that the devices shouldn’t be used by people who have had skin cancer or have a family history of the disease.
The government action is aimed at curbing cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which have been on the rise for about 30 years. An estimated 2.3 million U.S. teenagers tan indoors each year, and melanoma is the second most common form of cancer among young adults, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
For years, physician groups have urged the U.S. government to take action on tanning beds. The groups cite increases in the number of skin cancer cases among people in their teens and 20s, especially females ages 15 to 29.
A spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology said she hopes the federal move will spur more states to take action. Twenty-four states already have laws banning minors of various ages from using indoor tanning equipment.
“The FDA has taken a very strong stand about indoor tanning and this will, I think, really encourage additional states to strengthen their indoor tanning restrictions,” said Dr. Mary Maloney of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The FDA is also requiring manufacturers to meet certain safety and design requirements, including timers and limits on the radiation levels the products produce.
The FDA had classified tanning machines as low-risk devices, in the same group as bandages and tongue depressors. As part of Thursday’s action, the FDA reclassified all tanning beds and sun lamps as moderate-risk, or class II, devices.