Watch above: The Canadian Cancer Society says tanning beds’ risk of melanoma is so high, it can only expect more cases until the province steps in with a ban. Kendra Slugoski reports.
EDMONTON – Alberta’s health minister says legislation is in the works to ban youth from tanning beds after new data revealed rising rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“My view is we need to ban access to artificial tanning to youth and children under 18 years of age,” says Fred Horne. “Anything else would be a half measure.”
There has been a steady increase in melanoma cases since 1986, with recent years showing a more rapid growth. And while the death rate for many types of cancer — such as stomach, prostate and breast cancer — is decreasing, the melanoma death rate is on the rise according to statistics.
The disease is expected to claim the lives of 1,050 Canadians this year alone.
Tanning beds are one of the biggest culprits in the upward trend, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
In Alberta, one in three 17-year-old girls use the beds and most of them start at 15 or even younger, the society says.
“Under the age of 35, it increases your risk of melanoma by 59 per cent if you use indoor tanning equipment. So that’s a serious risk,” says Angeline Webb, senior public policy advisor for the society.
“The younger you use it and the longer you use it, that increases your risk factor.”
Melany James used to visit a tanning salon about once or twice a week as a teen.
“I just wanted a little extra colour, as many of us do,” she admits.
Seventeen years ago, while in her final year of high school, she was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“I got so lucky because it was on the front of my body, because I saw [a raised mole] and asked my doctor to look at it.”
While the surgery to remove the cancer left her with a three-inch scar on her chest, James says she realizes how fortunate she is to have survived the deadly disease.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that have not banned minors from tanning beds. Manitoba allows teens to tan indoors if they have permission from a parent.
“The time now has come for action on this and the best way to do that of course is to prevent children and youth from being exposed to artificial tanning, the same way that we prohibit the sale of tobacco to them,” says Horne.
“This is a really important public health issue…it’s on par with a lot of other things that can lead to cancer, and cancer that is preventable.”
He hopes to bring the tanning bed legislation forward in the fall.
READ MORE: Just how dangerous are tanning beds?
In recent years, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer re-classified tanning beds as carcinogenic, in the same category as cigarettes and asbestos.
It’s believed to have spurred tanning bed legislation in Canada, and around the world.
By the beginning of 2015, Australia will have a total ban on all indoor artificial tanning devices in businesses, making it the second country behind Brazil to have taken such measures.
“To be perfectly honest,” says James, “I would love to see them banned completely.”
With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News
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