10-Year-Old Girl Burned by Tanning Bed

Filed under: In The News

A 10-year-old Welsh girl spent 16 minutes in a coin-operated tanning bed -- and wound up with burns over 70% of her body. Kelly Thompson has been advised to stay out of the sun for the next ten years because the burns have increased her risk of skin cancer substantially. Doctors also told her that if she had spent two more minutes in the tanning booth, she would have required skin grafts.

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In some ways, Kelly's story is an anomaly: She was tanning in a coin-operated sunbed, rather than in a tanning salon. The unmanned tanning beds are not approved for use in the US, and in the UK they are not approved for anyone under age 16. The tanning booth Kelly was in had a sign warning that children under 16 should not tan, but since the coin-operated tanning beds are unsupervised, there was no one there to stop Kelly from paying up and climbing in.

Kelly's mother, Sharon Hannaford, 34, was horrified by her daughter's burns, and by the fact that she was able to use the tanning bed alone: "She was under age but there was no staff there to stop her using it and no one to give advice on using these potentially dangerous machines." She wants to see the unsupervised tanning beds banned.

Coin operated tanning beds are not available in the United States, and age regulations for tanning vary from state to state, but Kelly's mother has a point: Teens and tweens need guidance when it comes to tanning. In the US, 17 states are currently considering legislation to restrict tanning by minors; some states are looking at banning anyone under the age of 18 from tanning salons. The reason: Tanning beds have been linked to a rise in malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

Tanning beds work by exposing the skin to ultraviolet rays, which stimulate the body to produce melanin to protect itself from burning. But UV rays also damage the skin at the cellular level, and for teens, the risk of harm is especially high because skin cells are already dividing at a higher rate than during adulthood. And a getting a tan isn't worth running the risk of skin cancer.

Does your teen -- or tween -- go to a tanning salon? Do you encourage this, or are you trying to talk her out of it?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.