Cancer society advises against base tan strategy
The winter months may be the most dangerous time to be out in the sun, especially for teens and young adults.
With spring break and Easter holiday season in full bloom, the Canadian Cancer Society is urging vacationers to be careful in the sun and avoid overexposure to harmful ultra-violet radiation.
“It’s not something we think about in the wintertime,” said Judy Lund, the manager of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Essex County unit in Windsor, Ont.
Lund said the average person spends more time in the sun on vacation than during normal leisure time in the summer, and skin cancer affects youth ages 15 to 29 more than any other cancers.
One of the most common tanning related misconceptions is the base tan, Lund said.
Many vacationers are in the habit of using tanning facilities to help build up a base tan, assuming it will better protect them from the sun. Lund said the research suggests otherwise.
“With a base tan, you’re actually getting the UV damage while building up a tan. What you want to do is reduce exposure, not get different types of exposure,” she said.
This past January, a cancer society poll in Ontario found 49 per cent of students and 36 per cent of people age 18 to 29 believe that using tanning equipment to get a tan before a trip protects them from sun damage.
St. Clair College’s campus nurse Linda Jahn said the college does its part to raise awareness and recently held a health fair to prepare students for the break and had the cancer society provide information about sun sense.
Many students take beach vacations during spring break, said Justin Fox, president of the St. Clair College’s student representative counsel.
Fox usually vacations with about 10 other students from the college who all use tanning beds to build up a tan before going on vacation.
“Our group goes out and gets the base tan. We get it so we don’t get burnt while were down there,” he said.
“The first time we went, we didn’t go tanning and we ended up with some big burns.”
But this widely held belief could be setting young adults up for serious health consequences down the road.
Dr. Cheryl Rosen, the national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Sun Awareness Program, said: “We’re particularly concerned about youth because the use of tanning equipment before the age of 35 has been found to increase the risk of melanoma.”
The cancer society’s poll also found that 51 per cent of the 1,375 Ontarians surveyed thought that people look more attractive with a tan and believe people look healthier with one.
Lund said she thinks people need to follow the research, not the trends. “We need to look toward a social norm that does not include a tan as a sign of beauty or health,” she said.
“Aside from legislation to protect youth, more needs to be done to raise awareness of the cancer risk of UV radiation — from both sun and tanning equipment.”