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article imageReport: Tanning beds and teens don't mix

By KJ Mullins     Apr 26, 2012 in Health
Media reports tell us the way to beauty is by having a glowing tan but that glow can come at a deadly cost. There has been a 75 percent increase of risk for melanoma for those under the age of 35 from using commercial tanning units.
Right now in Ontario parents have to give their consent for teens under 18 to go to professional tanning salons who are part of The Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA). Those with skin that always burns and never tans are barred in salons.
Those rules are just just for those salons that are part of JCTA. The Canadian Cancer Society is lobbying to get the laws changed in order to protect the future health on Ontario teens. They propose the following:
- Prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning equipment
- Restricting indoor tanning promotions and marketing targeted to youth
- Maintaining a registry or licensing system for indoor tanning equipment in use in Ontario with fees put towards enforcement
- Introducing mandatory and comprehensive training that is specific to Ontario for all staff operating indoor tanning equipment. Training would include operation procedures, maintenance and how to identify people with fair skin who are at greater risk of developing cancer.
- Ensuring the health risks associated with ultraviolet radiation (UVR) emitting devices are displayed prominently and in clear view of clients at all indoor tanning facilities
"With thousands of letters and postcards from youth asking for this legislation and an industry which cannot be trusted to self-regulate, it's time for the government to step in," says France Gélinas, MPP, Nickel Belt and NDP Health Critic in a press release. "This is a common sense solution to the increasing rates of skin cancer among youth and young adults; it won't cost the government anything and it will help prevent the multiple costs associated with a lifetime of cancer-related care for people and the government."
Kate Neale is one of those who wanted to be tan despite being a teen and having fair skin. At the age of 16 she defied her parents wishes and started going to the tanning salon two or three times a week. She quickly moved to going under the highest UVB pressured bed for 12 to 16 minutes a session up to 16 times a month. This bed had a maximum time limit of 12 minutes but the salon allowed clients to lay in it for up to a half hour.
Kate graduated high school and got a job at a tanning salon. Part of the job was maintaining a tanned appearance, which she did with 12 free indoor tanning sessions and one spray tan per month. For two and a half years Kate worked, tanned and went to Loyalist College in Belleville for Marketing. She graduated and headed to Ottawa to be an office administrator.
Last year in May at the age of 20 Kate's mom spotted a freckle that had changed on her stomach. That freckle was actually melanoma. For the next several weeks the doctors biopsied three more areas, on her right breast, leg and arms.
"I'll never forget going to the surgeon's office with my mom — he thought she was the patient. When he realized that I was the patient, he told me I was the youngest person he'd ever treated for melanoma. I'm only 21," says Kate in a press release. "Fortunately my cancer was found at an early-stage (Clarks Stage 2), when it was non-invasive. Today, I have a six-inch scar on my stomach and live with so much fear."
Today Kate still tans with self-tanning lotion and spray tanning. Since June 2011 she has had 8 spots of cancer removed from her body and is awaiting the results of another biopsy from her left breast. Kate has moved back home because of the stress and anxiety of being a cancer patient.
Kate's not alone. In Ontario a recent poll by Ipsos Reid studied the tanning behaviours of youth ages 12 to 17. The research found that 52 percent of indoor tanners have their tanning bed use paid for by their parents and 24 percent were introduced to tanning beds by mom or dad. One in teen youth in Ontario are using a tanning bed.
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