Thursday, 22 May 2014 08:30

Cancer Society encourages students to be tan-free

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The face of Taylor Beverly, a Grade 12 student at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, is scanned by a special UV camera that helps to show skin damage from the sun or tanning beds. The face of Taylor Beverly, a Grade 12 student at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, is scanned by a special UV camera that helps to show skin damage from the sun or tanning beds. Photo by Matthew Liebenberg

With the end of the school year not too far away, many students are looking forward to those lazy summer days in the sun and they may even be thinking about visiting a tanning salon in preparation for their graduation ceremonies.


Brett Estey is hoping they will remember his tan-free presentations at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School on May 6 and 7 before they spend too much time in the sun and on a tanning bed.
He is the cancer control co-ordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Saskatchewan division. During his two-day visit to Swift Current he made presentations to a number of classes on the dangers of tanning and remaining tan-free as well as the psychology of tanning.
The Canadian Cancer Society has been running a tan-free program aimed at graduating students in Saskatchewan during the past few months and Estey has visited schools throughout the province.
“It’s had some great success ... but there’s some areas that we haven’t really gone to,” he said. “Swift Current and the southwest region was really one area we weren’t able to get to through the tan-free grad program, so we wanted to throw out the offer to have presentations and there was some interest from teachers here.”
Students had an opportunity to discover if they have already suffered any skin damage through face scans with a special UV camera. These images show damage about three millimetres below the skin.
According to Estey there was a good response from students to the information presented to them.
“A lot of interested students came up afterwards and teachers as well who wanted to talk a little bit more about what was brought forward in the presentations,” he said. “So there was a lot of intrigue and we’re really excited to see that the message is getting through and it’s having an impact.”
His presentation on the psychology of tanning highlighted the influence of advertising, celebrities and peer pressure on teenagers to have a tanned appearance.
“There’s a lot of pressure on young people to want to get tanned and we want to be there to show that there are alternatives,” he said. “For example, there are beautiful celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson who aren’t tanning. They’re protecting their skin and they still make it to the covers of fashion magazines just the same.”
Estey’s visit to Swift Current Comprehensive High School provided him with the first opportunity to make this presentation on the psychology of tanning.
“This class is a psychology class, so we couldn’t really do the general presentation,” he said.  “We had the opportunity to do something different. I think it’s really interesting for ourselves because we allowed ourselves to go back and look at some of the research on this front.”
An important part of his message to students is they do not need a tan to be beautiful for their graduation.
“The reality is that your best glow is your own glow, not damaging your skin,” he said. “That’s why we ran this tan-free grad program. We do make students aware that your graduation is going to be excellent, you’re going to have a great time still and it’s not going to be because of having a darkened skin.”
A common tanning myth is that one needs a base tan for protection against the sun during the summer months or before going on a holiday to a warmer destination.
“Base tans provide little to no protection against the sun,” he said. “All you’ve done is really caused damage to your skin and increased risk for skin cancer, which still remains the most common cancer in our province.”
The Canadian Cancer Society supports a ban on indoor tanning for people under the age of 18 in Saskatchewan.
“We know that education and policy is better than just education alone,” he said. “Seven out of 10 Canadian provinces have already banned indoor tanning for youth and we’re not alone in that thinking as well — 83 per cent of Saskatchewan people already support such a ban.”
The same Ipsos Reid poll, which was commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society in January 2014, also indicated 78 per cent of respondents felt the Saskatchewan government should adopt legislation to regulate the indoor tanning industry and 85 per cent wanted the government to restrict the tanning industry from advertising to youth.
“Clearly the public is on side with this as well and the medical community is also on side with this, ranging from the Saskatchewan Medical Association to the Canadian Dermatology Association,” Estey said. “It’s head scratching that the government hasn’t listened to the people of Saskatchewan, hasn’t listened to the medical organizations and continues to ignore a ban when the evidence is all there for those views.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer

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