Tanning is out?

By Ljudmila Petrovic

Local cancer groups fight to ban indoor tanning

The Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C. and Yukon division is fighting to establish what they consider long-overdue legislation that will make it illegal for those less than eighteen years of age to use indoor tanning. Their “Tanning is Out” initiative addresses rising concerns in the province, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer division recently found a strong link between the use of tanning beds and an increased risk of skin cancer.

This effort is not a unique one: similar bans on youth tanning are already in place on Vancouver Island, Nova Scotia, and Maryland, as well as in Australia, Brazil, England, France, and Scotland. An online survey commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society and conducted by Mustel Group Market Research found that 75 per cent of British Columbians would support such a ban, even in the demographic of those that use indoor tanning beds themselves. This is in part due to the growing research and awareness on the topic, which has found a 75 per cent increase in the risk for skin cancer in those people that used indoor tanning beds before the age of 35. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and also happens to be one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in Canadian youth between the ages of 15 and 29.

Part of the society’s initiative targets secondary school students that are graduating this year, encouraging them to make pledges that they will not participate in indoor tanning. Many students tan in preparation for end-of-year ceremonies such as prom.  In a media release, Adele Green, co-president of Youth Against Cancer at the University of Victoria, stressed how important it is to address this demographic: “A lot of my friends in high school chose to tan despite knowing the risks,” said Green. “I hope that by the time my eight-year-old sister reaches high school she will not experience the peer pressure to tan that many young people face today.”  This project has had enormous success, with over 3,000 grads taking the pledge to forgo tanning in 2011.

The online survey found that support for this legislation increased to 87 per cent when further information about the dangers and effects of indoor tanning beds and UV exposure was provided.  Furthermore, the survey found that even among those 15–29 years of age — the very demographic being targeted — support for the suggested legislation increased to 81 per cent when they were provided with more information, showing that education and awareness is a key component in the initiative. The Canadian Cancer Society, though one of the major advocates for this legislation, is not alone: they are supported by other major organizations such as the Canadian Dermatology Association, B.C. Cancer Agency, B.C. Medical Health Officer’s Council, Public Health Association of British Columbia, and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.