The rate of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, the deadliest form, in New Mexico, is among the highest in the country. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, through sunlight and indoor tanning devices, is one of the most avoidable risk factors for skin cancer. In fact, the effects of UV radiation are so harmful that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes tanning devices into its highest cancer risk category – “carcinogenic to humans.” Studies show using an indoor tanning device before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.
Restricting indoor tanning to adults is a proven strategy to deter minors to use tanning devices and help reduce skin cancer rates. The most recent data indicates that nearly one in nine high school girls used a tanning device, with numbers increasing to one in six high school girls by their senior year.
Despite the dangers of indoor tanning, misconceptions about the risks and benefits exist, due, in part, to misleading advertising and health claims put forth by the tanning industry. Youths are especially susceptible to the tanning industry’s manipulative marketing tactics, as the industry frequently targets them in their marketing promotions (i.e. back-to-school, prom and homecoming specials). This is a serious cause for concern as teens are tanning at increasingly higher rates.
Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer among young women and the third leading cancer among 25 to 29 year olds – many of whom started using indoor tanning devices before they turned 18. It's time for New Mexico to protect kids from indoor tanning devices.