Reported by: Erika Edwards, NBC News
Experts are calling on states and The Food and Drug Administration to beef up tanning bed restrictions, before teenage melanoma cases skyrocket.
"Exposure of any type of any tanning bed elicited at 75% increased risk for melanoma," said Lynn Anne Cornelius, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine.
The risks are higher the earlier you start tanning -- yet in many states -- there are no age limits for tanning bed use."Seventeen states in this country have absolutely no legislation to protect minors," said Sophie Balk, M.D., attending pediatrician, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore
In California and Vermont, the minimum age to tan is 18. In Missouri, no age restrictions are in place.
In 2007, researchers there surveyed local tanning salons about their rules on youth tanning. "Two thirds of the U.M. facilities would allow a 10-12 year old individual to tan, some of these said a parent didn't need to be consented or present," said Cornelius.
The American Suntanning Association responded to the Missouri study in a statement -- saying it's in favor of new measures like strong parental consent laws. But researchers say that even if a parent signs off on tanning -- the risk for skin cancer remains.
"We'd like all states to pass legislation prohibiting minors under 18 from tanning in salons," said Balk. States are getting on board -- more than thirty have some sort of tanning bed restriction in place for teens. Several other states -- like Missouri -- have legislation in the works.
The FDA requires tanning salons to have certain controls on the time spent in a bed, and the dose of UV exposure.
Right now tanning beds are classified as class one medical devices -- the same as tongue depressors and elastic bandages. An FDA advisory panel recommended changes be made to that classification -- something the agency is currently considering.