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Youth tan ban delights local docs
Young people under the age of 18 will soon be barred from tanning beds in British Columbia.
The Provincial Government announced the new regulation in the Public Health Act on Tuesday morning, with expectations it will take effect in fall 2012.
Doctors on Vancouver Island says tanning is just like smoking.
"I do think that there is a parallel here. Both cigarettes and tanning salons are legalized cancer causing agents and we need to be upfront about that," declared Dr. Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer at the Vancouver Island Health Authority. "We need to begin stemming that tide of general acceptance, as has occured with tobacco, and perhaps looking at how to reduce exposure to tanning salons."
Studies have shown that indoor tanning before the age of 35 raises the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent. Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. In Canada, the incidence rates of melanoma are rising every year and overall, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canada, despite being one of the most preventable.
"My message today for our youth is very simple: be proud of the skin you're in. Own it, love it, protect it, save it," said melanoma survivor Kathleen Barnard, who founded the Save Your Skin Foundation. "I know now that I would rather be alive with the skin I was given than die in the skin I so desperately wanted to have."
Local reactions have been largely positive.
"I think it's brilliant. I don't want to see teenagers, when they're 50, having to get skin cancers removed," said one woman in downtown Courtenay.
"I started tanning since moving to the Island," said another. "I still don't think it's good for your skin but just with the weather, when it's rainy all the time, just going for a five or 10 minute tan makes you feel a lot better, but I believe in everything in moderation."
Hasselback says there are many misconceptions about getting a "healthy tan" or a "base" prior to sun exposure on vacations.
"The level of exposure to UV radiation is much higher than natural outdoor sunlight, but in particular youth are at a very significant risk for the development of these cancers and melanomas later on in life, when they are exposed early in life," said Dr. Hasselback. "Artificial UV is damaging at any age and it is particularly a risk for those under the age of 18."
In 2012, the BC Cancer Agency estimates that 966 British Columbians will be diagnosed with melanoma and 150 will die of it. One in 69 females and one in 56 males is expected to develop melanoma during their lifetime. One in 413 females and one in 284 males is expected to die of melanoma.
"Unfortunately, cancer affects thousands of British Columbian families with one in three people expected to develop some form of cancer - such as skin cancer like melanoma - in their lifetime," said Health Minister Michael de Jong. "After a great deal of consideration of clinical evidence, commissioning a report to provide options and listening to what local governments had to say at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention last year, government has decided to restrict access to tanning beds for young people under the age of 18."
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