Artificial tanning has the lure of golden skin without having to spend hours in the blazing sun. But as appealing as it may be, tanning puts teens in particular at an increased risk of developing skin cancers.
While Saskatchewan has a recommendation for people under the age of 18 not to use tanning beds, it isn’t deterring users. Saskatchewan should impose a legislative ban on teen artificial tanning to help keep youth skin healthier.
Health Canada’s official position is there is no safe way to tan. Artificial tanning equipment releases UV rays up to five times the strength of the sun at noon. Although a slight pigment darkening becomes visible, teens who tan can get wrinkles as early as in their 20s.
But the biggest issue with artificial tanning is the increased risk of developing skin cancers, particularly melanoma. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is most common in ages 15 to 29. In 2009, 5,000 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma, 940 of whom died, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
According to the World Health Organization and the IARC, using artificial tanning before age 35 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma up to 75 per cent.
Tanning beds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). To put it into perspective, tanning beds are in the same classification as cigarettes.
So why is it legal for minors to tan? They are not allowed to smoke cigarettes. Saskatchewan’s recommendation and Health Canada’s guidelines just aren’t enough to prevent teens from artificial tanning. The number of salons has increased across Canada by five per cent in the past five years. Seeing celebrities with golden skin does nothing to discourage teens from wanting to have that image.
There are 104 tanning salons in Saskatchewan and studies have shown salons market their product to teenagers. Only Nova Scotia and Victoria’s capital region in British Columbia have a law that prohibits teen tanning in Canada.
Saskatchewan needs to take the next step in helping teens make the right choices. It is against the law for minors to smoke cigarettes. It is against the law for minors to consume alcohol. It should be against the law for minors to use artificial tanning beds when the risks are so high.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.