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Two years after Connecticut banned the use of tanning devices for all minors under the age of 17, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is pushing to increase the age limit by one year and calling for a national ban.

“We need a national ban,” DeLauro said Monday. “We need the Food and Drug Administration to go further and declare an outright ban on minors using these products.”

The Congresswoman, along with several healthcare professionals, said Monday that they hope to educate teens on the risks of tanning devices.

According to DeLauro, the FDA is currently considering the regulation and is expected to make a decision on its implementation by the time the 2016 budget is finalized.

DeLauro said raising the age to 18 for tanning beds makes sense because it’s in line with the country’s 18-year age limit for the purchase of tobacco products.

“We’ve shown that progress is possible, we just need people to remain aware of the risks,” DeLauro said.

Nine states, as well as the District of Columbia, have banned the use of tanning devices for those under the age of 18.

The state reports 900 cases of malignant melanoma a year, and 100 of those people die, William Gerrish, director of Communications for the state Department of Public Health, said.

“We think this call makes good public health sense,” Gerrish said.

According to Donna Aiudi, a dermatologist at Dermatology Associates of Eastern Connecticut, the number of melanoma patients she sees in her office has visibly increased since her residency.

She said the biggest increase comes from the 30- to 40-year-old female age group, and that the effects of sun damage often take 15-20 years to appear.

“What most of these young women have in common is a high use of tanning devices,” Aiudi said. “I can’t speak to my concern enough about this problem. It’s the very antithesis of health.”

Cases of melanoma have gone up 60 percent over the past three decades, and the American Academy of Dermatology reports that those who have been exposed to ultraviolet light from tanning devices have a 75-percent higher risk of the disease.

As for use among young people, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 13 percent of all Connecticut high school students and 21 percent of female students reported using indoor tanning. The CDC reports that, although skin cancer rates are decreasing overall, the number of young females diagnosed with melanoma has been steadily increasing.

Madeline Stocker photo
The tanning industry, however, continues to dispute that research.

As a $3 billion industry with an annual growth rate of 3.2 percent, the tanning industry claims that those who seek to regulate their products are plagued with misinformation. In an effort to refute the findings by the American Dermatology Association and various other medical groups, members of the industry banded together to launch a campaign defending itself against the mounting evidence.

“The dermatological community appears to be united in their efforts to drive indoor tanning salons out of business, and the American Suntanning Association believes they are spending $5 million or more annually to this end,” the group said in statement.

The tanning industry widely claims that tanning beds can prevent vitamin D deficiencies, which lead to prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, numerous studies purport to disprove that claim.

“There is no reason to use a sunlamp, even one that is specially designed for vitamin D production,” the University of California’s BerkeleyWellness.com online health resource center said in a statement.

According to DeLauro, the tanning industry has been challenging her attempts to tighten regulations, claiming that it will result in a loss of jobs nationwide. DeLauro, however, seemed unconcerned with that assertion.

“It’s a bipartisan issue,” she said. “It’s really a no-brainer.”