The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) before the Health Committee: The CCS calls for a law on artificial tanning this spring

20 February 2012

Montreal, QC -

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) appeared today before the Committee on Health and Social Services, which had a mandate to study its petition on skin cancer and artificial tanning. The CCS maintains that the unrestricted sale of artificial tanning services and their easy access for young and vulnerable clients are incompatible with their extremely harmful health consequences.

Like the dermatologists of the Institut national de santé publique (INSPQ), the CCS is demanding immediate government action to regulate the tanning industry in Québec. The CCS appeared before the committee holding the signatures of 60,000 Quebecers as well as letters of support from 65 groups representing more than 500 organizations. This support comes from public health agencies, women’s groups, youth organizations, human rights advocacy groups and medical associations. They are all demanding that children and adolescents be prevented from having access to tanning equipment.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and its increase is greatest among young people in Québec. Currently, there is no legislation regulating the tanning salon industry, which is selling a carcinogenic service. “It’s absurd! This industry is recruiting its very young clients using misleading messages,” emphasizes Mélanie Champagne, Policy Analyst in charge of the UV campaign for CCS – Québec Division. “It puts forth unfounded health claims (vitamin D, “base tan” before travelling, health benefits, etc.). There are more than 1,000 tanning salons operating in Québec, and many are in unusual places: travel agencies, video stores, convenience stores or laundromats.”

“We speak regularly to young women fighting melanoma, such as Annie Gloutney, who testified before the parliamentary committee along with the CCS. This mother of two young children has been hit full force with a recurrent cancer, which could have been avoided if a law had been put in place for her when she was 15 years old,” said Ms. Champagne.

Because three-quarters of the cases of melanoma diagnosed in 18- to 29-year-olds among clients of tanning salons are attributable to the use of tanning beds, and because exposure to artificial tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing a melanoma by 75%, the signatories of the petition, the CCS and its allies are once again urging the government:

1. To prohibit the sale of artificial tanning services to youth under the age of 18.

2. To set up a Quebec register of all businesses that provide artificial tanning services, so as to facilitate inspection work and enforce the law.

3. To restrict the marketing practices of tanning salons by prohibiting misleading advertising and the targeting of young people, such as through coupons in school agendas or prom-night promotions.

The CCS also proposes that the Québec government introduce a 10% tax per session on artificial tanning services, as is the case throughout the United States, and the prohibition of package deals (2 for 1, loyalty cards, etc.), as is done for tobacco products.

Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer. Over the last 15 years, the number of cases of melanoma in Quebec has doubled. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified tanning beds in the highest risk group known to cause cancer in humans, alongside cigarettes and asbestos.

In Canada, the use of tanning beds is prohibited among youth under the age of 19 in Nova Scotia and for those under the age of 18 in the district of Victoria. Elsewhere in the world, minors are banned from tanning salons in Australia, in several countries in Europe, and in some parts of the United States. Brazil eliminated these businesses completely in 2009, and the Australian province of New South Wales will do the same in 2014.

“The scientific and social consensus is there: a law on artificial tanning is a necessity, and is desired by the population. Mr. Charest and Mr. Bolduc have in their hands all the cards needed to enact legislation to this end and to prevent many skin cancers,” concludes Jean-Daniel Hamelin, Director of CCS Public Affairs.

Rachelle’s six tumours

Age 31, Rachelle Pitre was once a tanning salon user; now she is a skin cancer survivor. She had to undergo extremely painful surgery to have six tumours removed: one from her thigh, one from her breast and four from her face. She began going to tanning salons when she was a teenager, not long before her high school prom, and over the following decade, she became a regular client. Since her operation, she has had to make some major changes to her lifestyle habits: for example, avoid sun exposure and always wear FPS 60. Today, she says she inflicted this tragedy upon herself out of carelessness and ignorance, and she is calling for a law to protect all teenagers — as she would have liked to have been protected.

Annie’s story

When a tanning salon opened its doors near her home, Annie Gloutney was 15 years old and thought she was much prettier with a tan. Even though her grandfather had skin cancer and her parents forbade it, she started using tanning beds. She continued until she was in her 30s, “just” a few sessions in the spring, in the fall, and before going on trips. She was diagnosed with a first melanoma at age 37, followed by a recurrence of the cancer last year. After several long hospital stays, a very aggressive treatment and a period of shock for her whole family, Annie will soon know if her cancer has gone, if her husband will have a bit less on his shoulders, and if she will see her two daughters grow up. According to Annie, if she had not gone to tanning salons, her story would have been different.

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.

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For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444