Think twice before you tan — melanoma skin cancer on the rise in Canada

04 June 2012

Vancouver -

BC is one of the healthiest provinces in Canada – in part, because of our healthy choices and active lifestyles. However the 2012 Cancer Statistics confirm that melanoma skin cancer is on the rise in Canada. This year in BC, there will be 910 new cases diagnosed and it is projected that 150 people will die of this largely preventable cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society encourages everyone to be safe in the sun during National Sun Awareness Week, June 4-10, 2012. “Nobody wants to stay inside when the sun’s shining,” says Canadian Cancer Society Director of Public Issues, Kathryn Seely. “So we’re reminding British Columbians to take some simple steps to avoid over-exposure to UV radiation.”

Through public education and community action, the Society is sharing the message that no tan is a safe tan. The province-wide Tanning is Out initiative helps educate young people about the serious risks of tanning and encourages them to ‘embrace the skin they’re in’. BC youth volunteers can be found at beaches and public events this summer promoting Tanning is Out.

There are many myths about the benefits and dangers of tanning. The evidence shows, however, that no one is completely safe from overexposure to the sun.

Common myths about tanning:

Myth: There is no conclusive evidence that tanning causes cancer.

Truth: Yes there is. The leading academic organizations for cancer research have determined, based on hundreds of scientific studies that exposure to UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. No reputable studies have proven otherwise.

Myth: The tanning process does not damage the skin/having a tan is healthy.

Truth: When your skin color changes, you’re damaging your skin and that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Any type and amount of exposure to UV rays, including from tanning beds, can be harmful.

Myth: Tanning in moderation does not cause cancer; only sunburns may cause cancer.

Truth: Burning is only one risk factor for developing skin cancers. Exposure to UV radiation without burning is also responsible for DNA damage, which increases a person’s cancer risk.

Myth: The body repairs damage to the skin caused by UV light exposure.

Truth: DNA damage from UV radiation is often not properly repaired and this can lead to cancer.

Myth: Tanning provides relief for health issues (for example, skin conditions, arthritis, SAD – seasonal affected disorder).

Truth: There are certain disorders that can be treated by UV light, but treatment should only be under medical supervision in a clinical setting.

Myth: Only people with type 1 skin have an increased risk of developing melanoma from tanning. People with dark skin can’t get too much sun.

Truth: People with type 1 skin (very fair skinned, freckled; always burn, never tan) are at greater risk for developing melanoma and other skin cancers from tanning. However, regardless of skin type, tanning increases a person’s risk of cancer.

With the recent BC government announcement banning youth under 18 from using tanning beds, the Society is optimistic that behaviours and perceptions about tanning are changing. “Almost half of all cancers are preventable,” says Seely. “Creating sun awareness and advocating for policy changes to create healthier environments is a huge step towards stopping many cancers, like melanoma, before they start.”

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 or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Gina Ungaro

Media Contact

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 604-675-7335