Skin cancer survivor applauds teen tanning bed ban
Published Tuesday, August 14, 2012 8:52PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2012 8:56PM EDT
A 22-year-old woman who was a regular tanning bed user until she developed a potentially fatal form of skin cancer is applauding a decision by councillors in Oakville to ban teens from using tanning beds.
On Monday, Oakville councillors unanimously passed a bylaw banning anyone under 18 years of age from using a tanning bed, making the municipality the first one in the province to take such action.
Cancer survivor Kate Neale, who is an advocate for tougher restrictions on tanning bed usage, said she was overjoyed to hear of the Oakville council decision.
“Finally, somebody did it. I’m so proud of them and I cried when I found out,” she told CTV Toronto’s Pauline Chan on Tuesday.
However, Neale wasn’t always against tanning beds.
She was just 16 when she began using tanning beds three or four times each week to darken her naturally fair complexion. She also worked at a tanning salon.
Now 22, Neale has already had several surgeries to remove melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“I’m physical proof that tanning beds cause melanoma,” said Neale.
Multiple surgeries later, Neale said she remains at risk of developing more tumours in the future.
“What people don’t understand is that melanoma isn’t something that, you know, you go, you get it cut off your skin,” she said. “It’s something that you have to chase around your body.”
Today, Neale recalls a time when she believed “pre-tanning” would help prepare her skin for sun exposure and prevent burns later on.
Neale said she wishes she had listened to warnings when she had the chance.
In April, Neale spoke at a Queen’s Park press conference in support of a private member’s bill that would ban anyone under 18 years of age from using tanning beds in Ontario.
“I just hope that my message will get through to young people and even to older people, and parents, especially, because parents are, a lot of the time, the ones who introduce the young kids into tanning and they pay for it,” Neale said.
The private member’s bill introduced in April will be debated again when legislature resumes in the fall.
However, tanning industry advocates say they would prefer to see some guidelines restricting tanning bed use for teenagers, rather than an all-out ban.
“I support some action,” said Doug McNabb, president of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association and CEO of Fabutan. “I think, without a doubt, that a tanning bed, if used improperly, can create risk and that risk comes with sunburn.”
McNabb said he would like to see laws that would require parents to sign a waiver before their teen, between ages 16 and 18, could use a tanning bed
Anyone aged 15 and under should be accompanied by a parent or guardian every time they tan, McNabb said.
“The teen tan ban is, to me, is an excessive overreach,” he said.
The Canadian Cancer Society, however, says no amount of tanning is safe.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in July found that those who started using tanning equipment before the age of 35 had an 87 per cent increased risk of melanoma.
Other provinces, including Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, have already introduced legislation banning teens and children from using tanning beds.