Federal health officials want to ban the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18, part of an ongoing government effort to reduce skin cancers linked to the devices.
The Food and Drug Administration proposal would also require tanning bed users to sign consent forms acknowledging the risks of the radiation-emitting devices. Tanning salons and other businesses would have to collect the forms from customers before their first tanning session and every six months thereafter.
Friday's announcement follows years of prodding by dermatologists and medical groups for bolder action on indoor tanning, citing rising rates of skin cancer among teens and people in their 20s, particularly women. The leading professional group for skin doctors applauded the news.
"Restricting teens' access to indoor tanning and educating all users about the dangers of tanning devices are critical steps to preventing skin cancer," said Dr. Mark Lebwohl, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, in a printed statement.
Twenty three states already have laws banning minors from using indoor tanning equipment.
Last year the FDA required tanning beds and sun lamps to carry new warnings advising that they should not be used by anyone under age 18. The FDA has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but had previously taken little action to restrict their use.
Nearly 74,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed this year, and the disease is expected to cause nearly 10,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. While most cases are diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s, the disease is linked to sun exposure at a young age. People who use indoor tanning equipment face a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma than those who do not, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
About 1.6 million U.S. teenagers tan indoors each year at more than 33,000 tanning salons, gyms, spas and other facilities that offer sun lamps and tanning beds, according to figures cited by the FDA.
The FDA will take public comments on its proposal for 90 days before beginning work on finalizing them. There is no deadline for putting them in place.
A second proposal from the agency would require manufacturers of tanning equipment to make additional changes to their machines, including: bolder, easier-to-read warnings and mandating an emergency shut off switch.