About 1.35 million Canadians are still using tanning beds and the No. 1 reason why is because they thought getting a base tan would “protect” against sunburn, according to new Statistics Canada data.
While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canada, the latest findings reveal that 4.5 per cent of Canadians use tanning beds. The Canadian Cancer Society is calling the statistics “quite alarming.”
“Tanning beds can give off almost five times more radiation than the sun and that radiation causes skin cancer,” Rob Nuttall, assistant director of health policy at the society, told Global News.
“We’ve seen bans across the country stopping minors from using tanning beds. It’s something we worked on for all provincial governments because this is an important cause of skin cancer,” he said.
The Statistics Canada data said that in 2006, about 11 per cent of women and three per cent of men were using tanning beds.
A decade later, six per cent of women and 2.7 per cent of men were still using them. Women made up the majority – 70 per cent of those who use tanning beds are women between the ages of 18 and 34.
Those with post-secondary education and in a higher income bracket were also more likely to use tanning beds. Most people were going for fewer than 10 sessions.
Sixty-two per cent said they used tanning beds to get a “protective” base tan. Another 21 per cent tanned because they thought it looked good and 16 per cent said it helped them relax and feel better.
Nine per cent said they used tanning beds to boost their immune system.
Nuttall said that the notion of getting a protective base tan isn’t true. A base tan offers about two to three per cent SPF protection, but health officials insist on at least SPF 30 when you’re out in the sun on vacation.
“People say they want a tan before they go on holiday to protect them from the sun. A base tan doesn’t provide any protection – this is a myth,” he said.
Other misconceptions include the idea that tanning beds are safer than the sun because they provide artificial sunrays. This isn’t true either.
The World Health Organization classified tanning beds as a known carcinogen. It even warns that indoor tanning equipment use before age 35 increases risk of melanoma.
Last year, there were about 6,800 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in Canada, according to the society.
By May 2016, all 10 provinces had passed laws to ban tanning beds for minors. The laws are already in effect except for in Alberta.
Read the full Statistics Canada report on tanning bed use.