Children as young as 10 tanning with parental consent

(NBC NEWS) - Many young people are not "carded" when they enter tanning booths.

"Seventeen states in this country have absolutely no legislation to protect minors," said Sophie Balk, M.D., Attending Pediatrician at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore.

There is no consensus on how old children and teens should be the first time they're allowed under the lights.

In California and Vermont, the minimum age to use indoor tanning is 18, and in Missouri, no age restrictions are in place.

In 2007, researchers surveyed local tanning salons about their rules on youth tanning.

"Two thirds of the um facilities would allow a 10-12 year old individual to tan, some of these said a parent didn't need to be consented or present," said Lynn Anne Cornelius, M.D. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Experts say it's a major problem because studies have shown tanning beds can lead to skin cancer, and the earlier you start using them the higher the risk will be.

"Exposure of any type of any tanning bed elicited at 75-percent increased risk for Melanoma," said Cornelius, M.D.

The American Suntanning Association responded to the Missouri study in a statement saying it's in favor of new measures like strong parental consent laws. 

Researchers say that even if a parent signs off on tanning, the risk for skin cancer will still be there. 

"We have to educate people that exposure at the age of 15 will not lead to a tumor at the age of 16, but perhaps 20, 25 or later," said Cornelius, M.D.

The message is getting out now with more than thirty states having tanning bed restrictions for teens.