Stronger Warnings About Tanning Bed Risks Proposed in Canada

The Canadian government hopes to strengthen health warnings about the dangers associated with tanning bed use among young people, adding new information to tanning bed labels about the potential risk of skin cancer.  

In a press release issued by Health Canada February 24, Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, and James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake, Manitoba, said the agency plans to make warning label changes for tanning beds in the future.

“The Harper Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadian families,” said Minister Aglukkaq in the press release. The proposed label changes would fall under the Radiation Emitting Devices Regulations (RED) and would require tanning beds to display health warnings that state: “Not recommended for use by those under 18 years of age,” and “Tanning equipment can cause cancer.”

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The proposed labeling changes aim to crack down on the use of tanning beds to younger people, a significant concern to Health Canada, the country’s federal health regulating body.

The risk of developing skin melanoma increases by 75 percent when tanning bed use begins prior to the age of 35, according to prior findings by the World Health Organization.

Regulation of commercial tanning bed use, which also includes age restrictions, remains under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, not the federal government of Canada. Currently 8 of 13 provinces or territories already regulate or plan to restrict access of tanning beds to minors.

A bulleted list of other health concerns would also accompany the health warnings. The proposed labeling changes will be open for public comment for 75 days. Health Canada anticipates the draft proposal will be completed in May 2013 with changes to be posted to the Canada Gazetted Part II later this year.

Tanning Bed Dangers

The Canadian announcement follows increasing worldwide concern for the health and safety of tanning bed use. A recent European study estimated one in every 20 cases of melanoma are caused by the use of a tanning bed. The study also found women were at a higher risk of developing cancer if they used tanning beds more often.

Another skin cancer based study found a link between indoor tanning beds and an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer as well, nearly 170,000 cases each year. Researchers say tanning bed use may increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by as much as two-thirds.

Many teens rationalize the risk and dismiss concerns, citing the “everything causes cancer” approach, according to the findings of a study published last year in the Archives of Dermatology. Shockingly, 31 percent of college students questioned about tanning bed use felt if tanning beds were bad for you, the government would have banned them.

Nearly 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year, resulting in approximately 9,000 deaths annually, says the American Cancer society. In the U.S. there is an intensifying call for bans of indoor tanning bed use among children under the age of 18. Nearly 30 states have imposed some limits on tanning bed use, with California and Vermont as the first states to ban indoor tanning bed use for anyone younger than 18.


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