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Friday, 14 October 2011

Tanning beds – a Legalized Cancer causing agent

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Kudos to Nova Scotia for taking a bold step in December of 2010 that continues to evade other Canadian politicians Nova Scotia Act to regulate Tanning Beds .  The restriction on permitting minors to access tanning beds came into force in May of 2011.  Recently California has followed suit, and that will likely mean other provinces and jurisdictions may pay attention. At times these social experiments may not be successful and founded in political ideology, conversely it was California that led the nation in addressing the health consequences of tobacco use.   It might be surprising that Nova Scotia was first, it should not be surprising that California has taken a serious charge at addressing sun exposure issues.  
Melanoma is the most severe of the skin cancers.  While survival rates have improved over the last 4 decades, the incidence rate of primary melanoma has increased 4 times in males, and 2 ½ tmies in females, and continues to increase Melanoma in Canada.  Mortality has creeped up to perhaps twice the rate in males and remained constant in females. As non-melanoma skin cancers are not reportable, there are no good statistics.  What we probably know is that for each case of melanoma there are about 60 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers, in total affecting some 75,000 Canadians annually.  
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet irradiation.  Of course, most radiation exposure comes from the sun, however man’s ingenuity has replicated our solar source and marketed under the terms of “tanning beds” and “sun lamps”.   Yes, users of tanning salons do appear to be at least 30% more likely and in some studies as much as 4 times the risk of developing melanoma – and that likely extends to other skin cancers as well. 
The risk for skin cancers and melanoma is greatly increased when exposures occur earlier in life.   How many times have you heard the messages on slip, slap, and slop, or other refrain reminding of the importance of protecting ourselves and more importantly our children from the sun’s rays?  How well do you comply with this solid advice? Canadians have certainly not embraced the messages as well as our Australian friends who already have the highest global rates.  
Tanning beds produce the equivalent UV radiation exposure to at least 6 times longer of high intensity summer sun.  A typical 20 minutes of that bronzing glow is the same as lying still on the beach for 2 hours. 
Nova Scotia and California are only addressing the highest risk use of tanning beds, namely amongst minors.   The subtle inaccuracy in the limited restriction is the failure to adequately warn all users of the carcinogenic risks of using tanning beds or sun lamps – such would be the norm for other cancer causing agents. 
PEI, BC and Ontario have been testing the tanning waters but seem to be shy of wading in, and perhaps are suffering from cold feet.   Time to re-shine the light on the subject and push those provinces forward, start advocating in other provinces, and finally ignite a solar flame under PHAC and Health Canada who have tip toed around the subject on both use of tanning salons by minors and proper warning messages for adult users of these carcinogenic devices.

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