Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - With just 10 tanning sessions before the age of 30, the risk of being diagnosed with melanoma may be six times higher, compared to people who have never tanned indoors, according to a recent congressional report.
Undercover investigators discovered that 90 percent of salons nationwide claimed indoor tanning did not pose a health risk to fair-skinned teenage girls.
NewsChannel 9 visited several salons in Central New York to find out if local teens are hearing the truth about tanning.
Dr. Ramsay Farah is seeing more young skin cancer patients at his dermatology office than ever before.
“The [World Health Organization] came out with a statistic that said if you go to indoor tanning salons before the age of 30, you may increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent, so that is really significant, Dr. Farah said.
Salons in New York are required to give customers a fact sheet, listing the risks. But, we wondered how workers would respond to young people who just walk in with basic questions.
Two college students volunteered to find out, and we recorded the conversations the students had with tanning salon employees.
The following is a portion of the conversation recorded at one salon:
Student: I'm wondering kind of like what are some of like the bad, like negative results to tanning? Are there really any at all or...?
Student: Nothing at all? (inaudible). What about like, what about like skin cancer, stuff like that? I feel like I always like hear about that kind of stuff.
Employee: Yeah, I mean it could happen, but it could even happen going outside too.
Student: Yeah. But, this doesn't like make it worse at all or anything like that?
Given an opportunity to respond, the company explains how the employee should have responded to the student's questions:
"If any person comes in inquiring about the health risks associated with tanning we give them a Tanning Hazards Sheet that is provided to us by the New York State Department of Health. This same sheet is given out to all new clients on their first visit. We also recommend tanning in moderation, and let the client know that we follow all guidelines set forth by both the State and Federal Government in regards to tanning regulations. "
Despite warnings from the World Health Organization, some salon workers told our students they'd have to tan regularly for years before developing problems.
The following is a portion of the conversation recorded at a second salon:
Student: It worries me though because I have been reading so much lately about like the skin cancer and...
Employee: Okay, that's always a bunch of [expletive] because, pardon my French, but they put tanning as category danger one, which red wine is category danger one, mustard gas and birth control, none of them are related, so it's...
Student: What does that mean? I have no idea what that means.
Employee: They don't explain what category danger one is.
Dr. Farah told NewsChannel 9, “The WHO has classified indoor tanning salons as carcinogenic, so I mean it's not maybe or a little bit, it's a carcinogen.”
NewsChannel 9 contacted the second salon to find out if there is a policy that employees must follow when asked about the risks of tanning. The following response was provided:
"Our employee's comments were not appropriate and do not reflect the opinion of the company. Employees will be reminded that they cannot share personal opinions about the risks of tanning and face disciplinary action if they violate that policy. Customers with health-related questions should be referred to our website."
We were referred to a section of the website that lists several articles about the benefits of tanning.
Our young female student told clerks she was heading to Mexico for a vacation in a couple of weeks and she got plenty of advice.
The following is a portion of the conversation recorded at the third salon:
Employee: If you don't want to fry when you go there, then you need to do two things. One is, get as dark as you can before you leave and the other is, get at least an SPF 20 because no matter how dark you are when you get there, you are still going to burn if you lay out all day without any SPF.
She told the clerk there is a history of cancer in her family. Initially, he wonders why she wants to spend time in the sun and pushes moderation. But as she begins to leave, he encourages her to start tanning right away.
The following was also recorded at the third salon:
Employee: You look overwhelmed.
Student: I am. I just, I’m gonna think about it.
Employee: Why don't you go tan for like eight minutes and relax and think about it.
Employee: Come on, you've got to start now if you want to be tan in two weeks.
Most salons ultimately advised moderation, but there were mixed messages. In one store, a poster offers reasons tanning is smart, including vitamin D production.
Dr. Farah said, “So this is partially true, but they fail to give the rest of the story."
“Indoor tanning salons are actually quite inefficient at promoting vitamin D synthesis because they mainly use UVA bulbs,” he said.
“When you go out into the sun, you get both UVA and UVB together and it is the UVB that is most efficient at creating vitamin D,” Dr. Farah added.
He says a healthy diet and supplements can offer the same results without the risk.