Although having a sun-kissed complexion may seem desirable to some, the dangers associated with artificial tanning are not. Now, Ontario may become the latest province to change its policy on the use of tanning equipment.
Last week the Canadian Cancer Society renewed its call for a ban on the use of tanning equipment by anyone under the age of 18. Many artificial tanning salons are not following the safety guidelines made by Health Canada, especially for youths.
Dr. Paul Cohen, head dermatologist at the Rosedale Dermatology Centre in Toronto, says melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is the second most common type of cancer found in young adults.
“Some of the damage of skin cancer can’t be reversed. Once your DNA is altered, the precancerous changes will continue,” he said. “One of the greatest risks for melanoma is sunburn before the age of 18…while your skin is still young. Bad mistakes at an early age will wreak havoc with your skin when you age.”
Steve Gilroy, executive director at Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA), says the organization is a means of informing teenagers about outdoor sunburn prevention.
“The potential risks from tanning are from overexposure or sunburning, not moderate tanning,” he said. “Everything needs to be done in moderation, just like eating or drinking. At tanning salons, clients are taught what is too much and too little for their body.”
He says when a person enters a tanning salon for the first time, they are asked to complete a client card which asks the person to fill out their name, age and skin type. There is also an array of brochures located around the salons.
“Every one should know their skin type. People with type 1 skin (the most sensitive) are at a higher risk of getting cancer,” he said. “If you have type 1 skin, you should not be tanning.”
Chantel Brown, a 17-year-old SATEC @ W.A. Porter Collegiate student, says she tans regularly and has never been asked for identification, nor has she been informed of the dangers.
“I have heard it can cause different cancers, but I haven’t heard of any specific types and I haven’t looked into it,” she said. “I think maybe if I was more aware, I would be afraid, so I don’t bother researching.”
Cohen says sun tanning booths emit a lot of UVA rays so the skin doesn’t burn as much, but the rays still can cause skin cancer and the age skin prematurely.
“Teenagers aren’t ready to make the decision. I think sun tanning booths should be restricted like smoking. People need to be of an adult age before they can choose behaviours that are self harming,” he said. “I think there should be signs at these parlours warning people of the risks associated with tanning. You don’t see the effects until 20 years later.
Brown says she doesn’t feel she is old enough to make decisions that could later affect her life.
“Considering that when you are 18 you are considered an adult, it makes sense that you are mature enough to make the decision to do whatever you like,” she said. “It will probably work too; it’s not like when buying alcohol. No one can go tanning for you. Young people need guidance from adults when making life changing decisions”