Base tans are a myth
22 February 2012
During February, chances are pretty good that the local airports are filled with Albertans sick of the winter and looking for a warm beach.
And where there’s a lineup of sun-seeking Canadians, there are probably a good number of travellers with so-called base tans.
“Base tans are a myth – a dangerous myth,” says Dr Chris Keeling, a member of Alberta’s Indoor Tanning is Out coalition, a group that is pushing for strong provincial legislation that would prohibit underage tanners. “Any tan is visible evidence that your skin has been damaged – and that damage puts you at risk of skin cancer.”
The tanning industry argues that a “base tan” provides sunburn protection, and that it’s an effective way to control the amount of ultraviolet exposure.
At best, artificial tanning might provide a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 2-4. Most dermatologists agree that sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 is needed to protect against sunburn.
“The reality is that artificial tanning is dangerous just like the sun because they both expose the skin to ultraviolet radiation which is known to cause skin cancer,” says Keeling, an Edmonton-based dermatologist. “The World Health Organization has declared ultraviolet rays a known human carcinogen, identifying them as dangerous to the skin as tobacco is to the lungs."
In fact, the UV intensity of some tanning equipment may be 10 to 15 times stronger than the midday sun.
“Your best bet for protecting yourself against sunburn during winter getaways is pretty simple,” says Keeling. “Try to stay out of the sun during peak hours, cover up, or wear sunscreen when you have to be in the sun.”
There is a clear connection between indoor tanning and skin cancer, and the risk for young tanners is significantly greater. Research shows that people 35 and under are putting themselves at a 75 per cent increased risk of melanoma when they use indoor tanning equipment.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and, although it accounts for the smallest percentage of skin cancers, it is the type that is most likely to be fatal.
About Indoor Tanning is Out
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.