A report compiled by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee slates tanning salons for not making the risks clear to their customers. The committee asked for a thorough investigation to find out whether tanning salons across the country make it clear to their clients the health issues associated with the services they offer.

In a sting operation, the committee investigators made enquiries at 300 indoor tanning salons around the United States. Despite posing as fair skinned 16 year old girls, more than 90% of the operators stated that the use of tanning beds did not carry any significant health risks, while more than half denied that they had an increased risk of cancer.

Three quarters of the salons claimed there would be health benefits for the supposed young girl, to come and use their faculties, and many said that statements in the media of increased skin cancer risk were “rumor” and “hype”.

Dr. Suzanne Connolly, vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) said :

“The potential effect of this report is huge … we must grab the attention of our population and educate them. It’s a big opportunity for improving health by reducing risk through education … Tan represents damage … That is a fact.” “

She continued that the AAD congratulates the Committee for taking action and investigating a common retail service to the public that may cause them harm.

Other claims from the salons included treatment of depression, induced vitamin D production, preventing arthritis, as well as help with weight loss, cellulite and self esteem. Employees of the facilities often referred the enquiries to industry websites that down play the risks of tanning, ignoring huge amounts of research and data that clearly proves the opposite to be the case.

Dr. William James, immediate past president of the American Academy of Dermatology said :

“Their statements are in many cases directly contrary to the compelling, irrefutable evidence that the use of indoor tanning devices increase your risk of skin cancer.”

The FDA recommends against tanning more than three times per week, and salons used this to calm callers, saying things like, ” … it’s got to be safe or the government wouldn’t allow it.” Dr. James said : “[I do] not find this report surprising at all … The comment that if indoor tanning was dangerous, the government or the FDA would not allow it is something my patients have said to me.” ”

Dr. James continued that his patients often try to use the same arguments, which are of course false. Tobacco is still allowed, but it is damaging to the health. The Government acts more in an educational role than as a policeman.

Medical research has put indoor tanning as a leading cause of skin cancer, especially melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the World Health Organisation places indoor tanning as a group one carcinogen, alongside Tobacco, which draws an excellent parallel with tanning. Obviously it would be absurd and heavy handed to ban it completely, but the public at large should be aware of the risks.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer says that risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent from using tanning beds before the age of 30. Their report found that 76 percent of melanoma cases, in people between the ages 18 and 29 years, old was associated with use of indoor tanning bed.

Written by Rupert Shepherd