Teen tanning targetted by Alberta Health Services
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 01:33 pm
Half of Alberta’s teenage girls and a third of teenage boys are using tanning beds, says an Alberta Health Services survey, prompting a public campaign from the Province over the health risks these units have to young people.
Alberta Health Services asked 2,300 Albertans about indoor tanning and were surprised to find the number of teens who use tanning beds was so high. Of the respondents between the age of 18 and 24, one third of men said they’ve used tanning beds and 28 per cent said they tanned in the last year. In the same age group, half the women said they have used tanning beds and a quarter of those respondents said they have done so in the past year.
The Alberta Health Services (AHS) awareness campaign will target teens and young adults in places like movie theatres, restaurants and bars.
AHS will target tanning, similarly to how they have taken aim at smoking saying the two are both deadly habits. They point to information from the World Health Organization showing the artificial ultraviolet radiation coming from tanning beds is a carcinogen like the cancer causing agents in cigarettes.
“This survey shows that to begin decreasing the rates of melanoma, we need to similarly increase awareness of the dangers of artificial tanning,” said Dr. Paul Grundy, AHS cancer care senior vice-president and senior medical director.
A number of Canadian provinces, including British Columbia and Nova Scotia, have already banned teens under 18 from using tanning beds and Ontario is currently looking at such a ban. Alberta continues to be a hold out on the issue.
Some are calling for a ban and one DeWinton mom, who allows her teen to tan, said she would support the move.
Debra Vogel said she bought minutes for her 14-year-old daughter in December to allow her to tan in preparation for a trip to Hawaii.
“We just wanted to get a base tan and now we are just using up the minutes,” Vogle said.
Vogel said she has tanned for 30 years and is aware of the health risks and as a result she should probably not allow her daughter to tan.
“I might not be as strict as I should be,” she said.
Vogel said she would support a ban on teen tanning and said she limits the amount of tanning her daughter does.
“I think it’s important to mention everything in moderation,” she said.
Vogel’s daughter, Teisha, said she is conflicted because she enjoys tanning, but added the health risks are a worry and may deter her from tanning in the future.
“I like it,” she said. “I like being tanned.”
Teisha said she knows one or two of her friends tan, but said the majority don’t use tanning beds.
“Most don’t have the time or the money,” she said. “Some may not because of health reasons, but I don’t really know. We don’t talk about it.”
Andy Lam, who owns iTan 360 in Okotoks, said he doesn’t have a problem with the Province putting a cap on the age of people using tanning beds.
“Less than one per cent of my customers are under the age of 16,” Lam said.
He requires people under 16 years old to have their parents sign a consent form and their parents also must accompany them to their tanning session.
He said he believes tanning in moderation is not a health risk and can even prevent skin damage if it is used to prepare for a tropical vacation.
“They don’t want to burn and ruin their trip,” he said.
When it comes to skin health, Lam said he believes it is better to pre-tan and avoid a burn in the long run.
“We do burn prevention,” he said.
Lam estimated 70 per cent of his customers use tanning beds prior to a vacation.
Other reasons for indoor tanning are for special occasions like weddings and grad, or for simply cosmetic purposes, he said.
Lam said he would also not be opposed to the government mandating tanning salons to provide their clients with information on the health risks.
“I’m all for that,” he said. “Everybody should be educated.”
However, he said tanning salons should continue to be an option. He said people seek out the sun because it makes them feel good and look better and because they enjoy doing things outside and can’t always be covered up.
“Alberta Health Services wants us to stay in the basement 24/seven,” he said. “I think it’s not being real.”
There is such a thing as too much tanning, Lam said, and he encourages his clients to take a break.
“I don’t think you should tan every day,” he said. “Maybe a couple of times a week.”
Lam started tanning around 10 years ago to deal with breakouts on his skin.
He said tanning helps dry out his oily skin and also helps people with skin conditions like psoriasis.
AHS medical officer of health Dr. Laura McLeod disputes the use of occasional tanning as a solution to burning, and particularly as a preventative measure against skin cancer.
“There is no such thing as tanning in moderation, when it comes to indoor tanning,” said McLeod. “A tan is a sign of skin damage, which can lead to skin cancer.
AHS said research shows the chance of getting melanoma doubles with 10 or more sessions in a tanning bed. Melanoma is the most prevalent cancer amongst young people and according to the Alberta Cancer Registry 73 people died of melanoma and 543 were diagnosed with the disease in 2010.