Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning is an entirely preventable risk factor for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers which, together, account for nearly the same number of new cancer cases as lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, combined.

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.

Alberta Legislation

The Government of Alberta has officially approved the Artificial Tanning Regulation and the Standards for Artificial Tanning Facility Signage under the Skin Cancer Prevention (Artificial Tanning) Act. Under this new legislation, businesses will no longer be able to sell or provide UV artificial tanning services to minors and will be required to post health warnings to help inform all Albertans about the health risks of UV artificial tanning. This legislation supports the Government’s goal of reducing the incidence of skin cancers caused by ultraviolet (UV) indoor tanning.

Beginning January 1, 2018, all businesses offering UV artificial tanning services in Alberta:

  • cannot provide UV artificial tanning services to minors;
  • cannot advertise UV artificial tanning services to minors;
  • are required to post health warnings and age restrictions at every front entrance, point of sale, and at each UV emitting device; and
  • cannot have unsupervised self-service artificial tanning equipment in public places.

For more information, see the official news release.

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.

UVR Exposure

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.

Skin Types

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 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

Hygienic Risks

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

Family History

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 .

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  • 2. Autier P. Perspectives in melanoma prevention: the case of sunbeds. Eur J Cancer. 2004;40(16):2367–2376
  • 3. Boniol M., Autier P., Boyle P., Gandini S. (2012) Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 345. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e456556
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  • 16. Perniciaro C, Dicken CH. (1988). Tanning bed warts. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 18(3), 586-587.
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  • 20. Gavin A. A., Donnelly, C. C., Devlin, A. A., Devereux, C. C., O’Callaghan, G. G., McElwee, G. G., & … O’Hagan, A. H. (2010) Public at risk: a survey of sunbed parlour operating practices in Northern Ireland. British Journal of Dermatology, 162(3), 627-632.
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  • 23. Olsen CM, Carroll HJ, Whiteman DC. Familial melanoma: a meta-analysis and estimates of attributable fraction. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(1):65-73.
  • 24. Ford D, Bliss JM, Swerdlow AJ, Armstrong BK, Franceschi S, Green A, et al. Risk of cutaneous melanoma associated with a family history of the disease. The International Melanoma Analysis Group (IMAGE). Int J Cancer 1995;62(4):377-81.