When female employees of a mystery shopping firm called posing as 17-year-olds interested in tanning, 81% of indoor tanning facilities complied with the Texas ban on indoor tanning for those under the age of 18, according to an MD Anderson study.
Upon discovering the caller’s age, employees at those facilities told the caller she could not use indoor tanning, even with the permission of her parents.
“This level of compliance with the under-18 ban enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2013 underscores the importance of this approach as a strategy for skin cancer prevention,” said Mary Tripp, Ph.D., instructor in Behavioral Science and lead author of the study, published as a letter to JAMA Dermatology.
Research shows that indoor tanning before the age of 18 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma — the most lethal form of skin cancer — by 85%. In 2013, 1.6 million youths under the age of 18 reported indoor tanning, including 20% of female high school students.
The incidence of melanoma has been rising in the United States for 30 years, while the frequency of most other solid tumors declined. From 1975 to 2012, cases of melanoma grew by about 3% per year. In 2016, an estimated 76,380 people will receive a diagnosis of invasive melanoma and 10,130 will die of the disease.
Researchers identified 829 tanning facilities in Texas to contact in July and August of 2015. Of these, 635 could be reached by the mystery shopping firm callers; 445 were free-standing indoor tanning establishments, 133 were beauty salons or spas and 57 were other retail businesses that housed a tanning device.
Of the 635 surveyed, 512 provided responses that complied with the ban and 120 did not, with the most common non-compliant responses indicating the shoppers could tan with a note from their parents or accompanied by a parent. Free-standing centers (86%) were most likely to comply, with beauty salons/spas (68%) least likely.
Read more about the study the MD Anderson Newsroom.