June 2, 2014 | by Marc Antezana MD

Governor Jay Insee recently signed into law legislation that bans the use of tanning beds by those under 18 years old. Getting the new law passed is something that many of us in healthcare and government been working toward for some time.

Since 2009, I’ve worked closely with Dr. Sasha Kramer, a dermatologist in Olympia, along with the Washington State Dermatology Association, physician groups, and state legislators to get a law passed that would prevent minors from using tanning beds.

Many of us have cared for young patients, mostly young women, who developed this most serious form of skin cancer and had no other risk factors aside from tanning beds. Getting this law passed was the right thing to do and should save lives.

Exposure to Indoor Tanning Increases Risk for Melanoma

Studies have shown that exposure to ultraviolet radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in skin cells, leading to premature aging, immune suppression and eye damage. A recent review of seven studies found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who had been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning. Despite the evidence, many people—especially teenagers who are vulnerable to the most severe damage—aren’t aware of the facts or underestimate the dangers of indoor tanning.

Washington Tanning Law Brings Stricter Requirements

Washington State’s law will require tanning bed users to show identification and tanning facilities that allow people under 18 to use a tanning bed will be fined $250 starting in June. Washington now joins six other states that have passed the ban on tanning beds for minors including Oregon, California, Illinois, Texas, Nevada and Vermont.

This was the fourth session the bill was put before lawmakers and this year’s lead sponsor Curtis King of Yakima was a driving force behind convincing the legislature to take action. In addition, candid testimony from several melanoma patients underscored the serious consequences of tanning bed use. We’re grateful to the brave, young women who testified and told their stories of indoor tanning and subsequent melanomas in front of intimidating panels of politicians. Their insight into the teenage drive to be bronzed followed by the subsequent development of life-threatening melanoma was a moving and powerful reminder to the legislators of the reason why the bill is so important.

I’d like to thank everyone involved for their persistence in pursuing this legislation and pushing it through, and congratulations on the excellent result, a new law to protect all the kids in our state.

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Written By: Marc Antezana MD