The International Agency for Research on Cancer released a statement yesterday concerning tanning beds and the increased risk of cancer. They stated that tanning beds are as deadly as mustard gas, plutonium and other identified carcinogens, and officially labeled tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation as ‘carcinogenic to humans’. They made this statement after they comprehensively reviewed studies which have found that the risk of skin melanoma increased by 75% when humans used tanning devices before the age of 30. The dangers of tanning beds are now considered as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.
Previously tanning beds and/or ultraviolet radiation have been labeled as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. This new classification removes any doubt about the harmful potential of tanning beds; some doctors are advocating that they never be used under any circumstances. The Canadian Cancer Society is advocating for Ontario to place restrictions upon use of tanning beds and is calling for a ban for anyone under the age of 18. They claim that artificial tanning lights can emit rays that are as much as 5 times stronger than the midday sun. They are also calling for mandated standards for staff that operate tanning salons, a government run registry of tanning equipment use, and restrictions regarding advertising that is aimed at Canadian youth.
In a 2008 study conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, it was found that the annual rate of melanoma among young women had risen by 50% since 1980; Canadian experts said that it was likely that this was also happening in Canada as well. It is estimated that 5,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer in 2009, almost 1,000 will die as a result of this.
Ontario currently has no regulations regarding who uses tanning beds as well as the staff who run the salons. Instead, Health Canada has voluntary guidelines for tanning salons; this states that children under 16 not use tanning equipment and that operators should inform clients to discuss with their physician the potential risks of using tanning beds. Regardless of these voluntary guidelines, a 2008 study conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society found that 60% of tanning salons in Toronto did not ask the age of the client, and 51% did allow clients under 16 to use the facility.
New Brunswick, along with Scotland, Germany, France and some Australian states have already banned tanning bed use for anyone under the age of 18. 29 states in the U.S. have restricted use for youths using tanning beds; many require parental consent. An MPP from Ontario did introduce a private member’s bill in 2008 calling for a similar ban; this bill is before the standing committee on social policy.
For more information regarding the dangers of ultraviolet radiation and the use of tanning beds, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society.