In a move to lower the risk for skin cancer in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed on Dec. 19 to prohibit individuals aged 18 years old and below from soaking up the dangerous rays of tanning beds.

Under the proposal, tanning salon patrons would have to acquire a signed risk acknowledgement form prior to their first session, and again every six months to state that they are aware of the risks accompanying the use of the machine.

Before, experts only thought of indoor tanning as nothing more than an activity for cosmetic or relaxation purposes. However, research showed that sunlamp products actually affect the country's cancer rates than originally known. A 2014 study revealed that tanning beds account for more than 400,000 skin cancer cases in the U.S. annually, of which 6,000 are melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Data from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) showed that the use of tanning beds increases the risk for melanoma by about 59 percent. The risk elevates every time one tans.

Dr. Vasum Peiris of the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health said the exposure to indoor tanning is 10 to 15 times more intense than exposure to the midday sun. The effects include premature aging, sunburns, and a higher risk for blinding eye disease.

Six years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled tanning beds as carcinogenic to humans. However, the public is undeterred.

According to the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, around 1.6 million individuals aged 18 and below still practice indoor tanning every year. Another survey conducted by the AAD discovered that 35 percent of adults, 59 percent of students in college, and 17 percent of teenagers have used indoor tanning beds at least once in their lifetime.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff said it makes sense that most adults will still continue the use of tanning beds. Their proposed rules are meant to guide individuals in their decision-making, and are based on truthful information.

The FDA's proposal includes:

1. changes in the facilities where sunlamp products are used and in companies that manufacture the machine to improve the quality and safety of tanning beds;

2. mandating enhanced eye protection during indoor tanning sessions;

3. more displays of readable warning signs attached on the bed themselves;

4. placing labels on replacement bulbs to ensure the right ones are being used;

5. adding an emergency shut-off or panic button;

6. and a ban against the modification of tanning beds without the approval of the FDA.

"This is a tremendous advance," said Dr. Jeffrey E. Gershenwald of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"There will now be a national order against using indoor tanning devices for youth around the country. It will no longer be dependent solely on grass-roots state and local initiatives," added Gershenwald.

The proposal is currently undergoing a 90-day public comment period before it can be finalized.

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