Cancer is an unrelenting disease, but Canadian Cancer Society volunteers and staff are tireless in leading the fight against cancer. One of the easy ways progress can be made is through public policies that can prevent future cancer cases and help people who are living with the disease.
The Canadian Cancer Society is renewing its calls for the government of Ontario to support legislation for indoor tanning restricting youth under 18 year of age from using indoor tanning equipment.
In 2009, the world’s foremost authority in identifying the causes of cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified ultraviolet radiation (UVR) emitting devices, including tanning beds, as a known carcinogen proven to cause cancer. The skin damage caused by UVR is cumulative over a person’s life, meaning the earlier you start tanning, the greater your risk of developing skin cancer later in life. This is why the society is so concerned about the issue of youth using indoor tanning equipment.
In July, an expert review of current research published in the British Medical Journal showed that people who first started using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 have an 87 per cent increased risk of melanoma skin cancer.
There is no excuse for the Ontario government not to pass indoor tanning legislation. In other parts of Canada, the governments of Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia are all taking proactive steps to address this pressing issue by introducing legislation to restrict youth from indoor tanning salons. In August, the Town of Oakville became the first municipality to enact such legislation in Ontario.
The indoor tanning industry continues to misrepresent its product to the public. No tan is a safe tan. Melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common forms of skin cancer in young Ontarians aged 15 to 29, and is one of the most preventable. Indoor tanning equipment can emit ultraviolet radiation at levels that are five times stronger than the mid-day summer sun. A tan from natural or artificial sources provides very limited protection from sunlight or burning – it’s only equivalent to about SPF two or three.
We know that voluntary guidelines do not work. The indoor tanning industry has proven incapable of regulating itself. Investigative reports by media and audits conducted by society and Public Health show that those in the indoor tanning industry are not consistently following Health Canada’s voluntary safety guidelines. We also know that parental consent does not work as many parents are introducing their kids to indoor tanning and paying for their tanning sessions.
Regulating the indoor tanning industry will save lives and help reverse the rising cost of skin cancer on our already exhausted healthcare system. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer estimates that the total economic burden of skin cancer in the country will rise to $922 million annually by 2031. We already have age-specific laws related to smoking, drinking, gambling and bike helmets. Restricting those under 18 from indoor tanning would be just another law that protects the health of a vulnerable population and raises awareness about the dangers of indoor tanning.
We need to take action now. I encourage local residents to join the fight against skin cancer and send a letter to MPP Randy Pettapiece, by visiting www.takeaction.cancer.ca, or join the conversation on Twitter via #tanbedban.
Janis Cunningham, Manager, Canadian Cancer Society, Huron-Perth unit