Alberta hopes to help protect young people from getting skin cancer by banning them from using indoor tanning beds.
Legislation introduced Monday would prohibit anyone under 18 from using the beds, which aim to bronze the skin by bathing people in ultraviolet rays.
These UV rays also increase the risk of young people developing skin cancers later in life, including potentially deadly melanoma.
Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel speaks about The Skin Cancer Prevention Act in Edmonton, Monday, March 23, 2015.
“The Skin Cancer Prevention Act is a major step forward in the effort to reduce rates of melanoma in our province,” Health Minister Stephen Mandel said.
The proposed law would also ban advertising directed at minors about artificial tanning and prohibit self-service artificial tanning equipment in public places.
Tanning salons would also be required to post warnings about the health dangers of indoor tanning.
Violetta Ambrozuk, 31, who has terminal melanoma, said she wished there had been such a law when she started indoor tanning when she was 16.
Ambrozuk said she was diagnosed at 25 and has been told her cancer is spreading. She makes a point of telling teen girls who indoor tan at the gym she attends to beware.
“They have no idea what skin cancer is, let alone melanoma or the dangers of it,” she said.”It has been hell. Had somebody approached me when I was 16 and told me, I would never had this cancer. It is horrible.”
Sarah Hawkins of the Canadian Cancer Society said melanoma is one of the fastest-growing preventable cancers and research indicates that using indoor tanning equipment during youth increases the risk by nearly 60 per cent.
“Too many Alberta teens are put at a significantly higher risk of developing melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — by using indoor tanning equipment,” Hawkins said. “We encourage the government to pass and proclaim this legislation without delay.” Mandel said he hopes the bill will pass this spring.
The National Cancer Institute in the United States says teen girls make up a growing number of tanning bed customers.
Alberta Health estimates one in three 17-year-old girls in the province has used indoor tanning equipment. Of those who have tanned indoors, two-thirds report having started before they were 16.
Becky Lynn, a melanoma survivor and mother of three young girls, said she hopes there will be a lot of public support for the legislation in a society where “our children are under a lot of pressure to look good.”
“I’m thrilled to have support from the government to help get the right information to help parents know to talk to their kids and help make it harder for children to go into these facilities,” she said.
An industry group called the Joint Tanning Association of Canada estimates there are more than 200 indoor tanning salons in Alberta.
Calgary-based Fabutan Corp. is the largest chain in the province with 66 locations.
Fabutan president Mat Rockey said the company was aware the province was bringing in legislation and imposed its own ban last summer on young people using the machines.
“In our view it was just the right thing to do.”
If the legislation passes, Saskatchewan will be the only province that does not restrict youth access to tanning equipment.
Donna Pasiechnik, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan, said the province’s position doesn’t make sense.”We don’t understand what their reluctance is.”