Leadership race shows little concern for reducing rising cancer rate in Alberta

26 August 2014

Calgary -

The Canadian Cancer Society is concerned that the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign has had limited conversations about the actual issues of running this province, including protecting the health of Albertans.

The Society recently sent a one-question survey to all PC leadership candidates, NDP leadership candidates, as well as the leaders of the Wildrose and Liberals, to ask whether or not they are in support of legislation that will prohibit minors from using indoor tanning equipment. Liberal leader Dr Raj Sherman, NDP leadership candidates David Eggen, Rachel Notley and Rod Loyola, and PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk, were the only ones to respond; all are in favour of a ban.

“We’re particularly concerned that two PC leadership candidates did not respond to our indoor tanning survey,” says Evie Eshpeter, public policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division. “New leadership often results in a change in priorities and we want to make sure the government follows through on its commitment to introduce legislation that will ban minors from accessing tanning beds.”

Health Minister Fred Horne publicly announced in May that the Government of Alberta would introduce such legislation sometime this year. His announcement followed the release of the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 report that showed the melanoma incidence rate has increased by nearly 50 per cent in men and nearly 40 per cent in women since 1986.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is consistently higher among those who start using tanning beds at a young age and for a longer period of time. One in three 17-year-old girls in Alberta have used tanning beds – increasing their risk of melanoma by 59 per cent.

“We are facing a cancer epidemic in this province,” says Eshpeter. “As such, it is imperative that our new premier and all of Alberta’s leaders support measures, such as indoor tanning legislation, that will effectively reduce cancer rates in Alberta.”

The Society’s concern is valid. The government has committed to further reducing tobacco use in the province but has stalled on following through.

“Two tobacco reduction bills that focus on protecting the health of children were passed last year,” says Eshpeter. “It has been nine months since the bills received near unanimous approval from the assembly, yet it seems these bills will remain not in effect. The government is overlooking the health of children in Alberta.”

The incoming premier will have a new agenda and will not necessarily be focused on finishing the previous government’s business. Passing the responsibility of these important health issues to a party under new leadership could create further delays, if not forestall the bills permanently.

“We need a premier who will follow through on the existing commitments that have been made to protect children from the dangers of indoor tanning and tobacco in a timely manner,” says Eshpeter. “I cannot think of a more important role for government than to protect of health of children.”

More than 26,000 Alberta kids use flavoured tobacco – that’s more than half of all youth tobacco users in the province.

Alberta is one of the last provinces to not yet ban minors from accessing indoor tanning equipment. In addition to seven provinces, the Northwest Territories also has legislation that bans minors from tanning beds.

Tobacco use is the main risk factor for cancer death in Canada while skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country.

Take action and let your voice be heard. Visit takeaction.cancer.ca to encourage the future premier, and all Alberta party leaders, to support indoor tanning legislation that will protect youth and reduce skin cancer rates in the province.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers and staff whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. Building on our progress, we are working with Canadians to change cancer forever. Make your gift today at cancer.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Paula Trotter

Communications Coordinator

Phone: 403-541-2339