Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday signed a bill into law that will prevent most minors from using commercially owned tanning beds.
For Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-York/Dauphin, who voted in favor of the bill, those minors need that protection.
"We need to help make sure that young people are not exposed to anything that could cause cancer," he said.
The law will ban minors age 16 and younger from using tanning facilities and require 17-year-olds to have written parental consent.
Law details: The new law was developed through House Bill 1259, which was introduced in May 2013. Most of the act will go into effect in 60 days, and one section mandating state inspections of tanning facilities will take effect in two years.
Until minors become of age, they aren't equipped with the decision-making skills to weigh the risks of tanning, Teplitz said.
"Certainly adults can make whatever decisions they want to make — within reason — but we should be more careful when it comes to young people," he said.
Aside from the age issue, other parts of the legislation relate to state regulation of indoor tanning facilities. For example, salons will have to use tanning devices that meet certain requirements; keep customer records; and provide free protective eyewear to customers.
"Those would have health benefits, protective benefits for anyone who uses a tanning bed," he said.
'Finally': The new law is long overdue, said Dr. Natalie Bene, a skin cancer surgeon at Dermatology & Skin Care Surgery Center of York.
"I'm so glad they're passing this legislation, finally," she said.
Indoor tanning while you're young significantly increases the risk of skin cancer later in life, Bene said.
"It's so important not to do it young," she said. "You can have addiction to tanning beds."
Each day, Bene sees sun-damaged, wrinkly, leathery skin caused by exposure to tanning beds, she said.
"I look at them, and I can't believe people do this," she said.
And the aesthetic isn't even the worst part.
Health impact: Melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — is the most common cancer among women ages 24 to 29, she said.
"There is overwhelming evidence that there is a connection between tanning beds and melanoma," she said, noting that 70 percent of indoor tanners are fair-skinned young women.
Melanoma can be treated if it's caught early, but if it goes undetected for a long time, it can spread to the lungs, bones, liver and brain — and good treatment isn't really possible from there, Bene said.
"At this point, people just die," she said.
The new law will help prevent young teens from exposing themselves to harmful radiation and, in turn, prevent cases of skin cancer, she said.
"I think it's a great victory for understanding and protection of public health," she said.
For those who want a healthy tan, Bene recommends spray tans and self-tanners, which have improved in quality over the years and look natural on the skin.
"However, you have to remember that they do not protect you from sunburn," she said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.