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MDs ramp up push for youth-tanning ban

Group has petition asking province to join others

Dr. Megan Cooney with the petition her group plans to present to the province.

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Dr. Megan Cooney with the petition her group plans to present to the province. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

A group of local doctors is turning up the heat on the province to ban artificial tanning for youths under 18 years old.

The group of 10 pediatric resident doctors at Winnipeg's Children's Hospital is spearheading a project focused on getting Manitoba to get up to speed with Canadian provinces such as B.C., Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, which have passed legislation banning the use of artificial tanning equipment by those under 18.

Dr. Megan Cooney said her group has a petition at Children's Hospital and Health Sciences Centre that is encouraging the provincial government to bring forth legislation to ban artificial tanning for children and teens.

"They (youth) aren't as informed about the dangers and they're at a time in their lives where they may be making decisions without all of the information," said Cooney, 27, who is a third-year pediatric resident at Children's Hospital. She said people who begin indoor tanning before age 35 have a 75 per cent higher risk of developing melanoma.

"Knowing that this (repeated exposure when young) is a major cause of cases of melanoma later in life, we think it's most important to be targeting the group that is most affected by this."

The Canadian Cancer Society, which lists melanoma as the most serious type of skin cancer, says 90 per cent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight, including tanning beds.

"This is an important issue. Rates of melanoma are rising drastically and it's a cancer that is incredibly deadly," Cooney said.

Since 2012, Manitoba law requires parental consent for under-18 youths and a parental presence for under-16s who want to use tanning beds and other indoor tanning equipment. Tanning salons must post warning signs about the risks of skin cancer.

Tanning beds and other tanning devices emit ultraviolet radiation -- UVA and UVB -- which are linked to the development of skin cancer.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) has classified the UV rays from tanning beds, booths and lamps as a known cause of skin cancer and as a Class 1 physical carcinogen (substance capable of causing cancer), alongside tobacco and asbestos.

Steven Gilroy, the executive director of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association, which represents about 70 per cent of tanning salons across Canada, said the industry supports parental consent for youth tanning.

"We advocate professional standards and having trained operators controlling the equipment... we pushed for industry certification programs as a standard and we also asked the government to ban self-serve tanning but they wouldn't do that," Gilroy said, noting the timer needs to be controlled by a trained operator to reduce the risk of overexposure.

"The other thing is you need to ban skin type 1 people... they never tan and always burn. When you eliminate that one set, you find there is an insignificant risk based on what the WHO used and any of the researchers have used."

Manitoba Health Minister Erin Selby said the province has not closed the door on an all-out ban.

"We take this issue very seriously... we're always looking to our medical experts to provide us advice," Selby said. "We don't have plans right now for further legislation but we are watching very closely what other provinces are doing. We're committed and we'll do what actions we can do in order to reduce the risk of cancer among youth. I'm a mom with three teenaged girls and it's not something I'd be signing a consent form for."

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It’s interesting that these student doctors have not kept up with the latest research on indoor tanning. The research they quote is 9 years old and the latest research (2014) show that increase risk was cut in half and the lifetime risk is 1/5 that risk. Now all the research used is not about tanning facilities, it about tanning equipment in facilities, home and medical units. When you take out medical units, home units and are left with tanning equipment in professional salon the increase risk is 6%. When you remove a Skin Type 1 person from the data your risk is almost nil.

This is why the JCTA advocates for regulations that include; a trained and industry certified operator controlling the timer and a ban on self-serve equipment and Skin Type 1.
The JCTA stand ready to work with the government on any additional regulations to protect the public from overexposure of UV light.

As for the comment “says 90 per cent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight, including tanning beds”, how can this comment be true when 50 to 70% of melanoma are caused by BRAF mutations, which research shows has nothing to do with sunlight

Steven Gilroy Executive Director of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA)

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