Lansing Lawmakers heard conflicting claims about the cancer risks of ultraviolet rays Tuesday at a state House of Representatives hearing on legislation to ban teen use of tanning salons.
Oakland County dermatologist Kay Watnick cited a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that people who begin tanning indoors while young have a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma the deadliest skin cancer.
Watnick said melanoma is the No. 1 killer of young women in the United States and a disease she sees with growing frequency in her 29-year West Bloomfield medical practice.
Joseph Levy, senior vice president of the industry-related Smart Tan Educational Institute, said research actually has produced conflicting results, while polls show parents dont want added restrictions.
The proposed ban would drive teenagers to more aggressive sun tanning or use of home tanning beds, Levy argued.
The debate is over a proposal by state Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, to prohibit minors in Michigan from using indoor tanning facilities. It is under consideration by the House Regulatory Reform Committee.
Children are required to have written permission from parents, who are supposed to accompany them, Townsend said, but those rules are loosely enforced at best.
Weve found this is not cutting down on the use of tanning beds, Townsend said. In fact, he said, they are being used increasingly by teenagers.
State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, wondered whether a better alternative might be required state registration of tanning salons, strong enforcement of the parental permission requirement and the posting of signs clearly stating the melanoma risks involved in the use of tanning booths.
Dramatic testimony at the hearing also came from the family of a Hudsonville woman, Jillian Hayes, who died of cancer at age 23 in December.
Her mother, Susan Hayes, said Jillian, light-skinned and blue-eyed, became devoted to tanning at age 16 and used tanning booths at least three days a week.
I never gave her permission to tan, Susan Hayes said. (But) somehow, she got around the law.
Jillian was diagnosed with a melanoma on her back in 2009 and it was surgically removed, but the cancer spread, her mother said.