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SALT LAKE CITY — A state mandate requiring parents to accompany minors to tanning salons appears to be working.
That’s according to officials with the Salt Lake County Health Department, who reported Wednesday they’ve seen a 200 percent increase in salons requiring parental consent in the last two years.
A 2011 study out of the University of Utah revealed less than a third of Utah tanning salons required youths under 18 to get a parent or guardian’s signature when they came to tan, despite state law — a statistic that alarmed health officials. In response to the study, the Salt Lake County Health Department launched an educational campaign aimed at raising that number to 100 percent.
“The parental consent law exists so parents can be informed about the choices their children make,” said chronic disease prevention manager Terri Sory in a statement. “Parents need to understand if they choose to sign a tanning permission form for their teen, they’re also choosing the long-term health effects associated with tanning, including a greatly increased risk of life-threatening skin cancer in adulthood.”
In an effort to measure the effectiveness of the campaign, the health department sent unaccompanied minors into tanning salons across the county earlier this year. The undercover compliance checks revealed 83 percent of the monitored salons were in fact turning away teens who wanted to tan without their parents’ permission.
While that number is encouraging, health officials said they still have work to do.
“We’re very happy that our educational efforts have made a difference, but we still had 17 percent of tanning establishments that illegally allowed an unaccompanied minor to purchase tanning,” said Jorge Mendez, an environmental health scientist with the county health department in a statement Wednesday. “We’d like that number to be zero.”
In addition to getting parental consent each time a minor wants to tan, Utah tanning salons are required by law to post visible UV radiation warning signs near the front desk that list the potential risks, including cancer, skin and eye damage.
Parents need to understand if they choose to sign a tanning permission form for their teen, they're also choosing the long-term health effects associated with tanning, including a greatly increased risk of life-threatening skin cancer in adulthood.
–Terri Sory, Salt Lake County Health Department
Utah has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Melanoma, which is caused primarily by intense UV exposure, is the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer — killing an estimated 9,710 people in the U.S. each year, according to SkinCancer.org.
According to the nonprofit melanoma prevention campaign, Free Killer Tan:
- Just one tanning session increases the risk of melanoma by 20 percent
- One person dies from melanoma every 57 minutes in the U.S.
- Tanning beds have the same cancer rating as plutonium, cigarettes and asbestos
- Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma
If those statistics aren’t alarming enough, the Skin Cancer Foundation provides additional motivation for proper skin protection:
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime
- Your risk for developing melanoma doubles if you’ve had more than five sunburns
- Regular daily use of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher cuts your risk of melanoma in half
- Nearly 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will battle skin cancer at least once
- People who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent