Protecting our youth

The province is taking steps to protect younger people from skin cancer through a new law. The health community is welcoming the Skin Cancer Prevention Act as a vital law to protect our younger set.

Earlier this week, the Alberta government introduced Bill 22 – legislation that will ban youth under the age of 18 from accessing tanning equipment. This law will regulate the indoor tanning industry to address the significant cancer risk that tanning beds pose to young people, says the province.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, research indicates using indoor tanning equipment during youth increases the risk of melanoma by nearly 60%.

Rates of skin cancer are rising, with indoor tanning facilities serving as an increasingly frequent source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.

This exposure is a serious problem as one in three 17-year-old girls in Alberta has used indoor tanning equipment. Of those teens who have tanned indoors, two-thirds report having started before the age of 16.

Trying to change behaviours early on is key.

According to The Big Burn web site, studies show once children reach their teen years, parents’ influence fades as peer influence becomes much stronger.

Teens are notorious for ignoring their parents’ advice, and disregarding advice designed for their own safety. Talking to kids early and often gives parents the best chance of getting through to them, and encouraging them to avoid indoor tanning – for life.

Experts say UV exposure from indoor tanning causes permanent and irreversible damage to DNA, which can lead to several forms of skin cancer including melanoma.

Melanoma is described as an aggressive form of cancer that can spread very quickly with devastating consequences.

There’s a pervasive misconception today that bronzed skin equals a healthy glow. Really, nothing could be further from the truth. Tanned skin not only has numerous health risks, it ages a person significantly. We’ve all seen middle-aged people who have spent years basking in the sun during winter months for example, who now sport a shriveled, dried–up and leathery look. Once that happens, there really is no going back. Also, health officials say that 90% of skin aging is due to the effects of UV radiation.

It’s obvious that there is much external damage but imagine what is happening inside.

If people are set on having tanned skin, there are several advances in technology that are less harmful than tanning beds, such as bronzing lotions and spray tans which have grown in popularity over the years.

Given the evidence and precedence for prohibiting youth access to tanning equipment across Canada and globally, the Government of Alberta should make it a priority to pass and proclaim Bill 22 this spring.