Health

Should teens be allowed to use tanning beds?

If one cancer charity gets its way, the distinctive buzz of tanning beds could soon become harder for Ontario teens to hear. With melanoma becoming increasingly common in Canadians aged 15 to 29, the Canadian Cancer Society is asking Ontario to ban teens under 18 years old from using indoor tanning beds in the province. Nova Scotia and the city of Victoria already have similar bans in place, and Sarnia is considering one. Should this one be left to personal and parental discretion, or is it time to change the rules?

Masterfile

If one cancer charity gets its way, the distinctive buzz of tanning beds could soon become harder for Ontario teens to hear.

With melanoma becoming increasingly common in Canadians aged 15 to 29, the Canadian Cancer Society is asking Ontario, ahead of its upcoming provincial election, to ban teens under 18 years old from using indoor tanning beds in the province. The society wants all of the province’s political parties to commit to enacting a ban, if they should gain power. Nova Scotia and the city of Victoria already have similar bans in place, and Sarnia is considering one. Should this one be left to personal and parental discretion, or is it time to change the rules?

In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified tanning equipment as a known carcinogen and put it in the highest cancer risk category. We keep young people from buying cigarettes because they cause cancer, the argument goes — why can they still use tanning beds, which can emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation at levels five times stronger than the midday sun in the summer?

The Canadian Cancer Society says that the idea of a “safe tan” is a myth — with the IARC finding that using tanning beds before age 35 can increase your risk of developing skin cancer by as much as about 75 percent, indoor tanning should be avoided altogether, they advise.

Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell and squamous cell cancers, which are usually treated successfully but can be disfiguring. Melanoma skin cancers are less common but particularly deadly, especially if they have spread. Exposure to artificial UV rays is a risk factor for both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers, and many skin cancers are preventable.

For their part, the Canadian Cancer Society says that an Ipsos Reid poll indicated that 83 percent of Canadians support a ban on indoor tanning for young people, and 73 percent didn’t trust the tanning industry to self-regulate. What do you think?