Where Can 10-Year-Olds Go for a Cancerous Base Tan? The Show Me State, for Starters.

Tanning beds are unhealthy enough for adults, never mind adolescents. Photo: StockbyteOil up, kids! Pre-teens are welcome to settle into a tanning bed, sans parental approval, at hundreds of tanning salons across Missouri, according to survey results published in the journal Pediatrics Monday.

In the survey of 243 salons, 65% of operators said they would permit children as young as 10 to use their tanning beds. But in addition to permissiveness, the study discovered a pervasive ignorance about the safety of indoor tanning, with 80% of operators saying it would prevent future sunburns, and 43% claimed there were no risks associated with the practice. Both claims are false.

The survey was led by a team of dermatologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri—one of 17 states without minimum age restrictions or parental consent laws regarding tanning bed use. Of the states that do regulate, some ban minors until a certain age, while others require parental approval. California banned tanning beds for all minors last year.

“This should serve as a wake-up call for parents in Missouri and other states that don’t regulate tanning beds,” Lynn Cornelius, MD, chief of the Division of Dermatology at the university, said in a Washington University statement. “With the absence of logical age restrictions, we are failing to protect our children, who are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer when exposed to the high-intensity levels of ultraviolet light that can be received in a tanning bed.”

Exposure to ultraviolet light from tanning beds carries with it a 75 percent increased risk of melanoma compared to nonusers, who are also up to 2.5 times more likely to develop skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell cancers.

Cornelius says she and her colleagues routinely see young, typically female, melanoma patients who have used tanning beds at some point.

“Indoor tanning may seem innocuous at first,” she said. “Due to what is called ‘tumor lag time,’ or the time between an exposure to a carcinogen such as ultraviolet and the development of a cancer, it may take a decade or longer for someone who has been exposed to artificial ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds to develop a skin cancer.”

According to the World Health Organization, folks under 18 should not use tanning beds, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer has called ultraviolet rays from any source as carcinogenic to humans as tobacco.