Carlton students learn the dangers of tanning

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Students in Prince Albert had their photos taken on Monday at noon -- but not for the yearbook.

The Canadian Cancer Society brought their UV camera to Carlton Comprehensive High School to teach the students the dangers of tanning.

“It is a very special camera that shows UV damage whether it comes from the sun and it goes a few millimetres below the skin,” said Brett Estey, cancer control co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Cancer Society. “It is an effective tool to raise awareness with young people, adults in general, just about protecting their skin because skin cancer is the most common cancer in our province and for that matter our country.”

Carolyn Strom, a registered nurse and Carlton’s public health nurse, said she thought the camera would be a great idea for the students because it is something tangible instead of just talking at them.

“They get their picture taken and it shows up on the screen and he explains to them where they have some visible damage,” Strom said. “It is about three millimetres below the surface they can tell. Just knowing where you have sun damage, where you can maybe put more sunscreen on certain spots, that is helpful to know.”

Strom said healthy lifestyles is one of the things she promotes in the school.

“It is something because of the prevalence of skin cancer and the age group risk that I decided to bring it in,” Strom said. “Being the health nurse at the school and working in public health prevention is one of the things I am really passionate about and I found out about this.”

Estey said many people don’t realize how much damage tanning beds or a sunburn can do to their skin.

“It is important they are aware of the importance of taking care of their skin,” he said. “I think often people think of a sun burn -- it happens, it hurts for a bit but it goes away in time and I don’t have to worry about it. This camera helps to show your skin ever forgets.”

The camera will show damage that has been done to skin over time, not just recently.

“If we look at Caroline (our model on the posters), you can’t see the damage on her face from her tanning experience but if you use the camera it shows there is an extensive amount of UV damage that has been caused by the tanning beds,” Estey said. “It goes to show the importance of what lies beneath.”

The students were impressed with the UV camera and what it could show them.

“I have such fair skin and I burn so easy -- even wearing sunscreen I can sometimes burn,” student Haley McVey said. “I didn’t know how much skin damage I actually had and this is cool to see where I have the most damage and what I can do to prevent it.”

That is a typical reaction from most people who use the camera, Estey said.

“It is always great intrigue,” Estey said. “They just don’t know and once they start seeing it, I think they can take a step back and say, ‘OK, now I have an idea of why it is important to take care of my skin,’ so I think it has been informative for them to get that understanding.”

Estey said the camera does help people better understand skin damage and risks of cancer.

“I think it makes a lot of difference for a lot of people to understand and get the information out to them that how easy it is to get skin cancer or how easy it is to get skin damage,” Estey said.

A combination of education and policy is the best way to help prevent cancer, Estey said.

“That is why we still advocate for a youth tanning ban under the age of 18 because we know there is still a great risk when you are at a younger age,” Estey said. “We know, for example, use of a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma.”

Seven recent international studies showed that tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer in those under 35 years old by 75 per cent.

“We also know that tanning beds are a level one carcinogen, the same level of carcinogen ability as tobacco, arsenic and asbestos,” Estey said. “It gives you an idea that you (know) you really shouldn’t be using those products in any form so why should you start using tanning beds?

“With tanning beds, they emit a UV light that is about five times stronger than the sun,” he added.

Estey said people shouldn’t attempt to get tanned by being out in the sun either.

“Tanning is still skin damage, whether it is under the sun or under a tanning bed,” Estey said. “We do still encourage people to get outside in the sun -- in a five or 10-minute walk you can get your vitamin D intake for the day. We want people to be active still and not worry, not hide in a dark room and be away rom the light.

“We want people to be active and have fun, but what we are trying to say is go out, have fun, enjoy yourself and when the warm weather returns, get out there but when you do so take those extra precautions because it is worth it to reduce your risk for skin cancer,” Estey said.

Since they are her students, Strom wanted the teenagers at Carlton to understand the risks of tanning beds.

“Any sun damage or tanning a person does under the age of 35, you increase your risk of skin cancer by a huge amount -- I think the number is 59 per cent, especially if you do indoor tanning,” Strom said. “We are just trying to raise awareness of that.”

She said it is very common for students to go tanning before vacations, graduations or special events, which just increases their risk of skin damage.

“The long-term goal is to get grads to pledge not to tan for grad,” Strom said. “They have actually been successful in B.C.”

Estey said recently the Tan Free Grad program was brought to Saskatchewan, where students pledge not to tan before grad.

“Obviously graduation is a very tempting time for students to get tanned,” Estey said. “We do have a program in place we give the students the opportunity to organize or just take the lead and pledge themselves that they won’t tan because it is just not worth the risk of getting skin cancer.”

The UV camera will be in Prince Albert for a couple more days. On Tuesday, it will be at the First Nations University and then will be travelling to the SIAST campus for the career fair on Wednesday, Estey said.

“There are plenty of opportunities for people to get out and try to camera.”

Organizations: Carlton Comprehensive High School, Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, First Nations University

Geographic location: B.C., Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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Recent comments

  • Carolyn Strom
    February 11, 2014 - 16:56

    I'd appreciate it if you would please leave the health educating to the medical professionals. The fact that you own tanning salons shows a major conflict of interest on this topic. Your business is selling tanning minutes, so of course you're not going to support the research that tanning is harmful! Full Disclosure you say: So then why don't you show people the disclaimer on the JCTA website: http://tancanada.org/disclaimer/? That answers a lot of questions as to how unreliable the information you give is. Our goal as health care professionals is not to sell a product, it is to promote awareness, prevention and healthy living habits.

    • James
      February 18, 2014 - 13:37

      I have the right to say what ever I want. Canada is a democracy last time I checked Carolyn and I and anyone else doesn't have to have the sun scare agenda shoved down our throat. There is lots legitimate research that is open minded with no agenda. Here is a great example recently by the US National Library of Medicine and how more scientists are now looking with an OPEN mind:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828598/

  • Carolyn Strom
    February 11, 2014 - 16:43

    I'd appreciate it if you would please leave the health educating to the medical professionals. The fact that you own tanning salons shows a major conflict of interest on this topic. Your business is selling tanning minutes, so of course you're not going to support the research that tanning is harmful! Full Disclosure you say: So then why don't you show people the disclaimer on the JCTA website: http://tancanada.org/disclaimer/ That answers a lot of questions as to how unreliable the information you give is. Our goal as health care professionals is not to sell a product, it is to promote awareness, prevention and healthy living habits.

  • James
    February 10, 2014 - 21:51

    Full Disclosure: I own 3 tanning salons and I am also part of the JCTA (Joint Canadian Tanning Association) Educating children on being smart and never over exposing is important. But there are so many facts about indoor tanning that is overblown and untrue. Currently most salons in Saskatchewan are JCTA (Joint Canadian Tanning Association) and already require parental consent for children under 18 to use indoor tanning facilities. Salons feel it should be up to parents to decide not the government. Quote"“We also know that tanning beds are a level one carcinogen, the same level of carcinogen ability as tobacco, arsenic and asbestos,” Estey said. “It gives you an idea that you (know) you really shouldn’t be using those products in any form so why should you start using tanning beds?" This is always a great scaresational fact by the CCS and it's representatives. What they don't tell you is there are many many other products that people use daily that are carcinogenic such as birth control pills, but they don't tell you about that. Or how much the exposure to any class one carcinogenic substance makes a difference. Quote"“Tanning is still skin damage, whether it is under the sun or under a tanning bed,” Estey said. “We do still encourage people to get outside in the sun -- in a five or 10-minute walk you can get your vitamin D intake for the day. We want people to be active still and not worry, not hide in a dark room and be away from the light." Saying tanning is skin damage is the same as saying lifting weights is muscle damage. Well, it is and that is the way nature designed it. Your body repairs this damage naturally as a defense (the same way your muscle fibers repair and rebuild stronger) to prevent sunburn. This has been going on for millions of years. Quote"“Any sun damage or tanning a person does under the age of 35, you increase your risk of skin cancer by a huge amount -- I think the number is 59 per cent, especially if you do indoor tanning,” Strom said. “We are just trying to raise awareness of that.” This is the most common "fact" that has been debunked over and over but the CCS people will never admit it. This 75% and 59% number was created by taking all people that tanning at a salon, outdoor tanned, who were skin type 1 (very fair) and should never tan, people purposely burnt in dermatologist office on purpose and people using unsupervised home tanning beds. When you removed everyone but people who only tanned at a professional salon by qualified staff controlling the equipment the risk drops to less than 1%. Quote"“With tanning beds, they emit a UV light that is about five times stronger than the sun,” he added." This is another common scare tactic. It's true that tanning beds emit 5 times or more UV light than the sun. But the difference is the exposure time is controlled so you only receive a measured amount of UV so that it works out to be the same when done correctly. Tanning clients are also skin typed so they receive the correct amount of exposure and never too much. The CCS seem to forget this fact. The UV camera (which shows any damage including old scars and bruises) is just another tool for the CCS and it's reps to scare everyone when there should be a more balanced approach. There is also not one single study that 100% conclusively proves UV light is the single cause in skin cancer. There are too many other factors involved such as diet, genetics, environment that play a huge role in skin cancer and any cancers. If there is a study I would love to see it. There are actually studies now showing that a lack of UV light and natural vitamin D creates more risk for internal cancers. In other words the benefits of moderate, smart, and professionally monitored UV exposure outweigh the risks over a lifetime. Moderation like anything in life is the key.

    • Canadian Cancer Society
      February 12, 2014 - 15:50

      Providing current information based on scientific evidence is an important mandate of the Canadian Cancer Society. In response to James’ comments, we’d like to present a few facts that we think speak for themselves. Fact: The most highly regarded organizations for cancer research have determined, based on hundreds of scientific studies, that exposure to UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. World renowned cancer research experts have determined there is a direct link between using indoor tanning equipment and skin cancer. No reputable studies have proved otherwise. Fact: Parental consent does not work. Research shows that parental consent legislation does not reduce the number of adolescents who tan. This is why legislation is needed to ban indoor tanning for young people 18 years of age and under. Fact: Each time the skin is exposed to UV rays and becomes tanned or burned, individual skin cells and DNA are damaged. Although the skin can repair surface damage like a tan or sunburn, the damage to skin cells and DNA remains. Fact: Tanning damages the skin. Any type and amount of exposure to UV rays, including from tanning beds, can be harmful. UV rays damage the skin which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Fact: A 2012 expert review of current evidence published in the British Medical Journal showed that people who first started using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 have a 59% increased risk of melanoma. Fact: Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is one of the most common forms of cancer among people aged 15-29 and is one of the most preventable. Melanoma incidence rates for all ages in both men and women are increasing. Fact: In 2009, the World Health Organization upgraded the classification of UV-emitting devices, including commercial tanning beds, from something that probably causes cancer to something that we know causes cancer. Based on these facts, the Canadian Cancer Society is advocating for a ban on youth indoor tanning in Saskatchewan. We are committed to protecting the health of our young people and saving lives.