Photo: ThinkstockFor the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing a ban that would keep kids younger than 18 out of tanning salons and away from artificial tanning devices.
The new policy statement, Ultraviolet Radiation: A Hazard to Children and Adolescents, and new guidelines were issued today and will be published in the March 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics. Though the AAP has long maintained that tanning beds are harmful to children and teenagers-the ultraviolet radiation produced by some tanning beds can be 10 to 15 times higher than those from the sun during the hottest part of the day, the association says-this is the first time they've come out in support of a ban for kids and teenagers.
"In previous guidelines, we really haven't gotten as specific about the tanning salon issue," the AAP policy's author, Sophie Balk of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York, told Med Page Today. "That's a very new strong recommendation."
The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Dermatology also support the ban.
A May 2010 study published in the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research found that participants who used tanning beds had a 74 percent greater risk of developing melanoma than those who never tanned indoors. Melanoma is the second most-common form of cancer in women age 20 to 29; according to the study, the risk for developing skin cancer was higher in people who started tanning when they were kids.
"Teen girls are frequent visitors," said Balk in a statement. "And the use increases the older a teen is. So a 17-year-old is much more likely than a 14-year-old to go to a tanning salon."
Though our bodies do synthesize vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, the rate at which vitamin D is produced varies with age, skin pigmentation, the amount of skin exposed, the time of year, and even the time of day. The American Association of Pediatrics acknowledges that low vitamin D levels are common in U.S. children and their new guidelines note that "sun exposure and vitamin D status are intertwined," but maintains that we only need a few minutes of sun exposure on our bare arms or legs per day in order to boost vitamin D production. Vitamin D is also found in many enriched foods, including staples like bread and milk, and may be taken as a dietary supplement as well, so increasing unprotected sun exposure is not necessary.
The new recommendations also include:
- Teaching kids about sun-protection as early as possible
- Wearing sun-blocking clothing and hats
- Minimizing outdoor activities during peak sun times (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), if possible
- Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply it every two hours while outdoors (Infants younger than 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight and should wear sun-protective clothing and hats).
- Wearing sunglasses
- Follow guidelines for vitamin D supplementation (infants, children, and adolescents should get at least 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day)
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