Is the sun setting on tanning beds?

As the medical world debates restrictions on tanning beds, Andrea Hauser, a skin cancer survivor, knows with 100-per cent certainty that they should be banned.

Hauser, a homeopathic doctor working in the Waterloo region, runs a program called Street Cents and publically advocates against the use of tanning beds. “They are very unnatural and very obviously detrimental to your health,” she maintains.

A major focus of her message is to love the sun, but do so responsibly. Hauser used to spend her summers outdoors and, when she became a cheerleader at university, was encouraged to use tanning beds.

Then, her perfectly normal life was suddenly turned upside down. She was diagnosed with skin cancer, a malignant melanoma.

Surgeries followed and, to add to the pain, she was told to keep out of the sun and stay away from tanning beds, which bake the skin with cancer-causing ultra-violet light.

“Malignant melanoma is becoming more and more prevalent in young adults, which is a big deal,” Hauser said.

“Do not minimize the implications of melanoma because [it] can quickly metastasize and it can kill you. Not everyone is as lucky as I was to be left with a disfigured ear and nagging parents every time I head for the outdoors.”

“Tanning beds became very popular in high school, especially around formals. As I had friends who worked at tanning salons I would go here and there, but not as often as other girls,” Hauser said.

Her word of advice to young girls who frequent tanning beds is simple: Beauty is more than skin deep, but protect your skin regardless.

Science agrees with Hauser but still a large number of teens, especially young girls, continue to use tanning beds. According to a National Cancer Institute study, the melanoma rate among young women has nearly tripled over the last 30 years.

A US Food and Drug Administration study also found that about 35 per cent of 17-year-old girls use tanning beds while people under 30 who use tanning beds increase their risk of skin cancer by 75 per cent.

Meanwhile in August, 2009 the World Health Organization upgraded its classification of UV-emitting devices, such as tanning beds, from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen capable of causing cancers.

But Carol Patrick, a manager at Aztec Tanning Salon, doesn’t buy the science and research coming from the FDA and other sources, such as the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s just doctors stating their opinions and old things from the 80s,” Patrick said. “It’s totally not based on fact, just speculation.”

Patrick, who tans once a week to maintain her colour, turns away young girls who want to tan daily. She said it’s important to educate them on how to tan safely.

But there is no way to tan safely, according the US Skin Cancer Foundation , a major voice in a campaign south of the border to ban the use of tanning beds.

They recently won part of the battle by lobbying for a new 10 per cent tax on indoor tanning which will now be included in the health-reform bill in the U.S.

You can find more information about the risks of indoor tanning at:


One comment:

  1. How does this doctor know that tanning beds caused her melanoma? Being a holistic health practitioner, she would know quite a bit about whole body health as it relates to cancer. Also, she would know about Vitamin D production and that UV light is the best natural source of Vitamin D. Our western diets have made us more vulnerable to cancers of all kinds, including melanoma, so to blame UV light specifically is a mistake. There is no definitive evidence that UV light causes melanoma, in fact, studies show that the inverse is actually true. People that are exposed regularly to UV light tend to have lower death rates from all cancers, including melanoma. Tanning beds provide a consistent source of UV light when it is unavailable in nature.

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