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Banning minors from tanning beds is true cancer prevention

You may not realize it but in Canada more-and-more kids are regularly using tanning beds – often several times a week! Many know about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but peer pressure and concern for looking healthy far outstrip the risk. A recent Ipsos Reid poll of almost 1,500 Ontario students found that 21% of Grade 12 students were using tanning beds! These numbers are far too high, and, if unchecked, will lead to countless preventable cases of cancer in this generation of youth.

For most young people, appearance was the motivation behind their tanning. Many also said they chose to use tanning beds because their friends do it, and there is a disturbing “tanorexia” myth at play that tanning makes them look skinnier!

Tanning salons directly – and very effectively – target youth through advertising online, in yearbooks and in schools, especially before prom and graduation. Of course the advertising doesn’t mention that tanning beds greatly increase the risk of melanoma, which can be a highly invasive cancer that can be difficult to treat.

Just recently new data emerged showing a spike in skin cancer among young adults, with tanning beds implicated as a factor. So why isn’t every province adopting precautionary measures?? It’s not only the right thing to do from a health and moral standpoint, it’s good public policy. A healthy population is a productive one, and every case of cancer we can prevent will save our already-burdened health care system hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So what’s happening across Canada? Here’s a run-down:

  • Nova Scotia has a ban in place since November 2010 on children under 19 using tanning beds
  • B.C. will introduce regulations this year that will make it illegal for children under 18 to use tanning salons
  • An Ontario Private Members Bill (tabled last week) looks to ban those under 18 from tanning
  • France and the U.K., have restrictions on youth tanning
  • New South Wales, Australia will ban tanning beds outright by 2014


The World Health Organization has declared both kinds of ultraviolet radiation as Class 1 cancer-causing agents — the same carcinogenic rating given to tobacco and asbestos. Last year, an estimated 5,500 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma and about 950 were expected to die from the disease. More than 74,000 were told they had other types of skin cancer.

An increasing number of medical and health groups, including the Canadian Dermatological Association and the Canadian Medical Association, are calling for a ban on minors using tanning beds. Let’s join them and TAKE ACTION today!