Commercial tanning salons not the culprit

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Re ‘Tanning beds and the risks for youth’ (The Guardian,  Jan. 26, 2011): The Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA) has been working with provincial governments across Canada to develop comprehensive regulations for the commercial tanning industry. These proposed regulations go much further than simply an age restriction for minors.

Melanoma is a very complex disease. Genetic factors such as moles, red hair and very fair skin are major risk factors. Intermittent UV exposure and sun burns play a minor role. Studies have shown that people who have regular, long-term, continuous exposure to UV, such as outdoor workers, have a lower risk of melanoma. A reduced risk compared to indoor workers. Over exposure to UV is quite a different risk factor than regular, continuous exposure. Professional, commercial tanning salons, follow strict guidelines for people whose skin type can tan, to ensure that clients are not overexposed.

 Recent studies that show that sunbeds provide a risk of 75 per cent are flawed. These studies contain data for people that tan at both commercial facilities and at home and use medical units. Home tanning is uncontrolled and provides a much greater risk factor for melanoma and medical units can give burning exposures. When you remove these home and medical units’ data from the study the new risk factor is not 75 per cent but just six per cent, not even relevant, for those under age 35.

How can municipalities, government officials and legislators use studies that contain high risk home and medical data to legislate commercial tanning salons? It doesn’t make sense. Commercial tanning salons should not be held accountable for people’s indiscretions at home or what happens in a doctor’s office. 

The majority of Canadians don’t use commercial tanning facilities. It’s easy for them to just say “ban it.” But this is Canada. We try and do things properly. We discuss it. We debate it. We review the research and make a smart informed decision. Not a one-sided decision, politically driven and lobbied, but one based on strong scientific facts, from both sides. The JCTA believes in working with governments and other stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive set of regulations that protects all ages based on the facts.

 P.E.I. does have a melanoma problem. Using the 2010 Canadian Cancer Society published report, the actual incidence rate for melanoma in P.E.I. is 57 per cent above the Canadian national average. However, this is all due to males. Males represent 87 per cent of the melanoma incidence in P.E.I. This is 64 per cent higher than the national average. Males don’t regularly use commercial tanning facilities. In fact, our research shows that females make up 75 per cent of the commercial tanning customers. So the facts would indicate that something other than commercial tanning is driving the increased male melanoma rate in P.E.I.

Steven Gilroy,

executive director,

Joint Canadian Tanning Association,

Kelowna, B.C. 





Organizations: The Joint Canadian Tanning Association, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Canada, P.E.I., Kelowna

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