Myth: Getting a “base tan” protects you from the sun. World Cancer Day: Get the facts

31 January 2013


The focus of World Cancer Day on February 4 is to dispel misconceptions about cancer, such as the dangerous myth perpetuated by the tanning industry and in popular culture — the so-called “base tan” for travellers heading south for spring break.

“Getting a tan from a tanning bed does not protect you from the sun and in fact could be more harmful,” says Joanne Di Nardo, Senior Manager, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division.

Tanning beds can expose a user to five times more ultraviolet (UV) radiation than the mid-day summer sun. A tan from natural or artificial sources offers limited protection from sunlight or burning — equivalent to an SPF level of only 2 or 3. The effect of sunburn goes away and a tan fades, however, the skin has a limited capacity to repair itself and the damage accumulates.

In 2009, the World Health Organization upgraded the classification of UV-emitting devices, including tanning beds, from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen, meaning there is no doubt that indoor tanning causes cancer.

Research done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer shows that using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 significantly increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.

Several municipalities in Ontario have passed bylaws to prohibit youth under 18 from using tanning beds, including most recently Belleville. A private member’s bill was introduced in April 2012 but was lost when the Ontario legislature was prorogued.

“That’s why the Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the Government of Ontario to protect youth from the dangers of indoor tanning by reintroducing the legislation,” says Di Nardo. “We know voluntary guidelines and parental consent do not work, so action needs to be taken. When the provincial legislature resumes, indoor tanning should be on the agenda.”

A poll commissioned by the Society shows that 80% of Ontarians would support the provincial legislation prohibiting the use of indoor tanning equipment by youth under 18 years of age.

Support the Society’s call for action on indoor tanning by visiting

World Cancer Day is marked every February 4 by the Union for International Cancer Control. The Society is one of the organization’s more than 770 members from 155 countries.

For information about common cancer myths, visit the myths page.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.

For more information, please contact:

Camille Beaubien

Senior Manager, Communications

Phone: 416-323-7181