The danger is especially high for those under age 18, yet Missouri has no age restrictions for tanners. One lawmaker wants this to change.
A new dermatology study shows that 1 in 7 skin cancer patients continue to use tanning beds. Now there's a push among doctors to at least make parents aware of the dangers before their kids tan.
Marlaena Boucher works at Body FX Tanning in Springfield. The salon requires a parent's signature for customers under age 18.
"They don't do the full research themselves before they come in," she says. "I think it's more something they see on TV or in a magazine that they're trying to achieve."
Dr. Raffaele Pennellia is a dermatologist at Mercy. He's had patients who used tanning beds as teens who ended up with skin cancer in their 20s.
"The number of skin cancers rising among young adults is startling," he says. "When you're young you're exposed to carcinogens. They do more damage to your DNA than when you're older."
He says most tanning salons don't require parental consent, and kids aren't old enough to understand the risks before stepping into a tanning bed.
"While there are some responsible tanning operators out there who warn people and have them sign a consent, most of them don't," adds Dr. Pennellia.
Missouri currently has no age restrictions on tanning, but Representative Gary Cross (R-Lee's Summit) is trying to change that.
"It's not about putting tanning beds out of business. I'm trying to make parents aware of things that's the key."
Cross sponsored House Bill 47 (right), which would have required parental consent for tanners under 18. But the bill failed.
Cross watched his own teenage daughter battle skin cancer. He says he'll keep re-introducing the measure every year until it sticks.
"My purpose is to educate parents to help them provide the best guidance for their children."
Dr. Pennellia says a statewide law is necessary, if only to help parents think twice about letting their children tan.
"If you're signing the thing saying you're increasing your child's chance of a deadly skin cancer, I think there's going to be a lot more who are hesitant to sign that consent form."
Missouri is one of 17 states without any form of restriction.
Dr. Pennellia believes that some time in the future there will be a federal law banning all minors from tanning, but that could be decades down the road.
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