Why this is an issue
There is sufficient evidence that UVR exposure through indoor tanning equipment has been linked to all forms of skin cancer - the most common cancer in Alberta which accounts for more than one-third of all new cancer cases.
The International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer of the World Health Organization has placed UV tanning beds into its highest cancer risk category, "carcinogenic to humans," ranking them equal to well-known carcinogens like asbestos and tobacco.
In Alberta, a 2012 study found that over 30% of 17 year-old girls have used indoor tanning.1 This is a statistic that’s particularly alarming because younger skin is more susceptible to UV damage.2
It is estimated that around 90% of all skin cancers are associated with solar and artificial ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure — a modifiable and preventable risk factor.
Myths & Facts
Before you roll your eyes and think “tanning is not a big deal”, you should get the real facts from real sources. For instance: Use of tanning equipment before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 59%.3 Here are some things you should know before you decide to use a tanning bed.
Artificial tanning is safer because it’s in a controlled environment.
Artificial tanning is more dangerous than the sun. Some tanning beds emit 1015 times more UVA radiation than the midday sun.4 That means eight minutes in a bed is like one to two hours on a beach - without sunscreen.
A base tan is adequate protection from getting burned.
It has been estimated that an indoor tan offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of only 2 - 4,5, 6 while an SPF of 30 is the minimum sunscreen recommended. Plus, a base tan is created only at the expense of further skin damage, some of which will be permanent.
Tanning is healthy and safe in moderation.
Tanning can cause a release of endorphins in your brain - the same reaction that heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine trigger.7 That's why what starts as a onetime thing can turn into an all-the-time thing.
Artificial tanning is a great way to get vitamin D.
Tanning beds are NOT a safe way to get your vitamin D. Why increase your risk of skin cancer when taking a vitamin D supplement is safer and cheaper?
It is estimated that around 90% of all skin cancers are associated with solar and artificial ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure — a modifiable and preventable risk factor.8,9
In addition to skin cancer, overexposure to UVR can also cause premature skin aging, eye damage, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of a recurrent skin cancer or second primary cancer.10
Overexposure to UVR is the most important cause of the three main forms of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.8,9
Overexposure to UV radiation and bright light can result in damage to your retina and permanent loss of vision. UV radiation over time may also increase the risk of developing cataracts. Different parts of your eye absorb different kinds of UV radiation and light. The surface layers of your eyeball (the cornea and the conjunctiva) absorb UVB rays.11 The lens absorbs UVA rays. The lining at the back of your inner eyeball (the retina) absorbs visible light.12 All of these types of light are present in large amounts in a tanning bed, which makes it a very dangerous place for your eyes.
On March 25, 2015, Alberta's Skin Cancer Prevention Act passed third reading. Once enacted, businesses in Alberta will be banned from selling or providing artificial tanning services to minors. Further, the Act prohibits advertising of artificial tanning directed to minors, mandates health warnings in artificial tanning facilities and on advertising materials, and prohibits unsupervised self-service artificial tanning equipment in public places. This legislation is a key component of Alberta's efforts to reduce the risk of skin cancer in our province. Together with continued education, the opportunity to prevent skin cancer is real.
The pigmentation characteristics of your skin play a huge role in determining your risk of skin cancer. The fairer your skin is, the higher the risk.13 So it's important that you know what your skin type is and understand the risks.
NEVI (BENIGN MOLES OR FRECKLES)
Nevi are benign melanocytic tumours, also known as moles. They are strongly associated with risk for Melanoma. The greater the number of nevi on a person's skin, the greater the risk of melanoma. An individual who has more than 100 common nevi or more than two atypical nevi has a five- to twenty-fold increased risk of melanoma.14
Skin cancer isn’t the only thing you can pick up at the tanning salon. Poor cleaning practices can leave you exposed to HPV (human papillomavirus, AKA genital warts) and a variety of skin infections.
There are 10 different types of skin afflictions or microbes that can be transmitted by an unclean tanning bed.15 These can include warts,16 skin rashes,17 flaky discoloured patches,18 HPV and bacteria found in fecal matter.19
Health Canada has issued infection control guidelines to ensure your tanning bed is properly sanitised before you climb in. Unfortunately, studies in developed countries have shown that tanning beds are only properly sanitized 79% of the time.20 This means you are taking the risk that roughly one out of every five tanning beds hasn’t been properly cleaned. Lying in an unsanitized tanning bed could result in serious skin or other infection.21
A family history of melanoma, or having a first degree relative (like a parent or sibling) with melanoma, is associated with a two to four times increase in risk of melanoma. 22-24 Familial melanoma accounts for 5% to 10% of cases and is often diagnosed at a younger age.
Video & Testimonials
There’s nothing quite as powerful as hearing from someone who’s suffered the ill effects associated with indoor tanning first hand. Watch the story .