Canadians Also Get Skin Cancer in Tanning Beds

It’s a not-so-funny thing, this whole skin cancer and tanning beds thing that’s been going on since the advent of tanning beds and human vanity.  Actually, way way way before that – we humans have been sunbathing for millennia, too, to satisfy our vanity.  I always found it amazing to ask the question, “how many of you use tanning beds?” in my Stage Lighting classes.  Showing research in class about the dangers of tanning beds was always a wide-eye-opening experience for some of my students, but there are some who don’t really give a sh*t what you say about it because Vanity Fair is too deeply engrained in their young dancer brains.

I digress.  Not even the initial point of the article, really, but that I Can Has Cheezburger photo was too, too funny.  Oh well I suppose, when chickens can’t come in out of the rain, what are we really supposed to do?

So in Canada right now there is a conservative member of Canadian Parliament who is pushing to ban the use of tanning beds by people under 18, and to add warning labels to the beds.  Canadian MP James Bezan introduced the bill this week – from the press release at James Bezan’s website:

Ottawa, ON – James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake, today tabled a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) in the House of Commons to combat harmful radiation from tanning beds. The bill is designed to promote consumer awareness about the cancer risks of tanning especially for youth under 18 years of age.

“Too many Canadians remain unaware of the cancer risks from tanning and artificial tanning,” said Mr. Bezan. “My bill will help protect Canadians against this hidden health risk by introducing tougher labelling requirements on tanning beds and by prohibiting youth under18 years of age from using tanning beds.”

The bill requires that current radiation warning labels on tanning beds explicitly state that tanning equipment can cause cancer and may be carcinogenic.   In addition to having warning labels affixed to the tanning equipment this bill will require that large warning labels also to be placed in all commercial establishment providing artificial tanning.

Mr. Bezan stated there is good evidence to suggest that tougher labeling is needed.

“According to a 2007 study, 87% of tanning salons radiation warning labels could not be seen,” said Mr. Bezan. “Canadians need to know that the cancer risks are too high from using tanning beds.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization has classified tanning beds in their highest cancer risk category, calling tanning beds “carcinogenic to humans.”  They recommended that youth under 18 years of age avoid use of tanning equipment.

Both the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) recommend that persons under the age of 18 be prohibited from using indoor tanning salons. 

In 2011, approximately 5,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 950 will die of it.  Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer among Canadians, with 74,000 cases expected to be diagnosed during 2011.

Mr. Bezan said the inspiration for this bill came from a personal experience with his wife, who was diagnosed with two melanomas over several years.

I’m sorry to hear that repeated experiences with the MP’s wife and her diagnosed melanomas had to catalyze this attempt to throw the kibosh on underage tanning, but frankly and honestly no I’m not if it stopped her and other people from tanning in a tanning bed.  If it was tanning beds that caused the MP’s wife’s melanomas, then she’s lucky that her poor choices didn’t end up in her death from cancer.  I’ve reported on the dangers of tanning/sun beds a good handful of times on, and each and every time I get a mix of emails from readers and surfers about how either A) we’re totally right on because tanning beds are bad; B) we’re totally wrong about tanning beds and I should keep my #$%^$%^& mouth to myself.  I even got an email back in 2009 from an advocate for a tanning bed manufacturer asking me to take down my opinions on the subject.  Yeah, I’m not doing that.

Mr. Bezan is a lucky guy.  He has a beautiful wife and three beautiful daughters.  None of the four of them look like they need a tan.  Here’s why – because you don’t need a tan from a tanning bed or hours in the sun to be sexy.  Ladies (and many men too, I aspire to be thin and awesome soon!), you have beautiful bodies and there is no need to put yourself into cancer jeopardy in order to impress some douche who won’t pay attention to you unless you’re the color of a decorative autumn squash.  This is fundamentally flawed.  Our visions of ourselves cannot be so occluded that we will do this to ourselves, people.  This is crazy – the obsession with vanity, it’s gonna lead to your death.

Right now in Nova Scotia, you have to be 19 to tan, and 18 in Victoria, BC.  In Nova Scotia, for example, there is something called the Tanning Bed Act which curbs the use of such equipment and regulates their usage.  From the Doctors of Nova Scotia website on the Tanning Bed Ban:

The Tanning Bed Act [a PDF link, only 3 pages, check it out] which governs the use of artificial tanning devices, went into effect on June 1, 2011.  Doctors Nova Scotia, along with partners such as the Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Care Nova Scotia and Sun Safe Nova Scotia Coalition, lobbied government to ban tanning beds for use by youth.

Doctors Nova Scotia made its stand on artificial tanning during its 2010 annual conference when doctors voted to lobby government to ban the use of artificial tanning devices for youth.

Banning tanning beds for youth is an important step in reducing rates of skin cancer in the province.  Overexposure to solar ultraviolet radiation has long been known to increase the risk of skin cancer. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified artificial UV radiation (tanning beds) to a Group 1 category (carcinogenic to humans). This is the same categorization used for tobacco.

One in three cancers worldwide is skin-related. The highest rates are found in countries with fair-skinned populations with strong tanning cultures. Canada falls into this category.

The known consequences of excessive UV exposure include:

  • skin cancers
  • eye damage
  • premature skin aging
  • reduced effectiveness of the immune system, possibly leading to a greater risk of infectious diseases

Several organizations around the world have established position statements discouraging the use of artificial UC tanning equipment by everyone and youth in particular. These include the World Health Organization, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association. 

The Tanning Bed Act received royal assent on Dec. 10, 2010.

OK – now let’s go over this one more time, for now at least:

  1. Tanning beds cause cancer.
  2. You are beautiful and don’t need to put yourself at such reckless risk of skin cancer
Here’s some melanomas for the road for you!

Sunbeds Officially Cause Cancer


I’m a bit of a Sun Worshipper, even though most of the time I feel more productive on overcast crappy days.  However, after having a mole checked for Melanoma yesterday (all clear!), it became clear to me that a little extra sunscreen might be in order next time I go camping in July.  Besides the excruciating pain and my poor wife having to listen to me whine about how much pain the blisters caused, it taught me yet another life lesson – my wife is always right.

So, after that bit of rambling – a related story that came out a week or so ago was the fact that sun tanning beds officially can cause cancer.  It kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?  Whether you bake yourself in the sun for hours on end or bake yourself for whatever predetermined amount of time lying in a sun bed, is it really a surprise when you get toasted by the ultraviolet ninja?


Research done by the International Agency for the Research of Cancer (IARC), who makes recommendations to the World Health Organization (WHO), repositioned their findings to state that sunbeds and sunning lamps are “carcinogenic to humans” from their previous statement that they were “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Guess who calls BS on that statement?  The Sunbed Association in the UK, of course!  That’s like politicians in the United States saying that lighting designers can’t practice unless they’re licensed architects because it benefits everybody.  Oh wait…

From the article at the BBC:

Previously, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) assessed sunbeds and sunlamps as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

But it now says their use is definitively “carcinogenic to humans”.

Campaigners believe the move, announced in the journal Lancet Oncology, will increase pressure for tighter industry regulation of sunbed use.

The new assessment puts sunbed use on a par with smoking or exposure to asbestos.

I kind of don’t understand the principal behind sunbeds – is it like the orange ridiculousness that is “tanning lotion?” That stuff always looked so fake to me. I guess we don’t have time to go outside and enjoy the sun anymore. Again, from the article:

[The IARC] made its decision following a review of research which concluded that the risk of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – was increased by 75% in people who started using sunbeds regularly before the age of 30.

In addition, several studies have linked sunbed use to a raised risk of melanoma of the eye.

The charity Cancer Research UK warned earlier this year that heavy use of sunbeds was largely responsible for the number of Britons being diagnosed with melanoma topping 10,000 a year for the first time.

In the last 30 years, rates of the cancer have more than quadrupled, from 3.4 cases per 100,000 people in 1977 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2006.

If you use a sun bed, please use it sensibly! I hate hearing about people getting fatally ill from luxury items.