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Investigation Finds Tanning Salons Lie About Health Risks to Patrons

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Few salons tell the truth about the health risks of indoor tanning, according to an investigative report conducted by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee requested an investigation to determine whether indoor tanning salons provide factual and sufficient information on the health risks associated with the practice.

Committee investigators posed as fair-skinned 16-year-old girls, and contacted 300 indoor tanning salons throughout the country.  Of the salons contacted, 90 percent told the would-be patrons that indoor tanning did not pose health risks, and more than half the salons denied that the fake sun increased risk of cancer.

Many described such statements as "rumor" and "hype," according to the report, and more than three-quarters of salons said indoor tanning is actually beneficial to the health of a teen girl.

"The potential effect of this report is huge," said Dr. Suzanne Connolly, vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).  "We must grab the attention of our population and educate them.  It's a big opportunity for improving health by reducing risk through education."

Connolly said the AAD applauds the committee for taking the initiative to undertake the investigation.

"Tan represents damage," she said.  "That is a fact."

Salons told the "teens" that the intense UV rays treat depression, induce vitamin D production, prevent and treat arthritis and help with weight loss, cellulite, depression and self-esteem.  Employees also often referred to industry-sponsored websites that downplay or disregard the copious research that has found indoor tanning causes melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

"Their statements are in many cases directly contrary to the compelling, irrefutable evidence that the use of indoor tanning devices increase your risk of skin cancer," said Dr. William James, immediate past president of the American Academy of Dermatology.

While the Food and Drug Administration recommends against indoor tanning more than three times per week, the investigation found that salon employees told callers who were concerned about safety that, "it's got to be safe, or else [government regulators] wouldn't let us do it," according to the report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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