Mind & Body

Teen tanning taboo

 | April 30, 2012

In attempts to stave off the development of skin cancer later in life, the B.C. government has banned commercial tanning bed use by persons under the age of 18. Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to adopt a similar regulation, in May 2011.

“After a great deal of consideration of clinical evidence, commissioning a report to provide options and listening to what local governments had to say at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention last year, government has decided to restrict access to tanning beds for young people under the age of 18,” explained Michael de Jong, minister of health.

The government cites studies that show tanning before the age of 35 increases risk of melanoma by 75 per cent. However, Bill Sanesh, owner of Kamloops swimwear store and tanning salon Bikini Bill’s, finds fault with those statistics.

“In fact, the data in the report didn’t actually study indoor tanning salons, but rather sunbed usage,” states Sanesh. “Half of the subjects making up the World Health Organization’s 75 per cent figure were home tanning bed users or used medical sunbeds in dermatology offices.”

Different user groups fall into different risk groups, and lumping them all together can be misleading.
“The indoor tanning salons had a statistically insignificant six per cent increase in risk. The home tanning units had a 40 per cent increase in risk. The medical phototherapy sessions had a 96 per cent increase in risk,” says Sanesh. “It was the total of these figures that resulted in the 75 per cent figure.”

The government offers no regulation for the use of home tanning units or phototherapy to mitigate increasing melanoma rates. For Sanesh, this is problematic.

“This legislation will ban all under 18’s, including those using UV for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema and depression, from using tanning salons that showed the lowest melanoma risk and will move them to unregulated home units and medical phototherapy which showed the highest increase in melanoma incidence,” he says.

The proposed regulation under the Public Health Act will ban the use of commercial indoor tanning beds by youth under the age of 18, unless they have a medical prescription. It is anticipated to take effect fall 2012.