Looks can kill

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The mother of all summers is finally winding down. It’s been a sun-drenched couple of months, for sure, offering plenty of opportunity for fair-skinned denizens to nurture that swarthy Caribbean look.

The beautifully tanned skin will eventually fade, but for those who can’t bear to let their paleness prevail, there are always tanning beds.

Lily white skin is out — and has been for decades. The increased popularity of tanning salons and cheap holidays to sun destinations are partly to blame. Sun-darkened skin is in. It’s outdoorsy, healthy-looking and, well, just plain sexy.

It’s also deadly.

In June, the provincial government introduced legislation to ban the use of tanning beds for anyone under the age of 18. It’s one piece of legislation few could disagree with.

In fact, Nova Scotia already had such a ban in place, and other provinces plan to follow suit. Oakville, Ont., implemented a ban Monday; it’s believed to be the first Ontario municipality to do so.

All this follows from research in recent years that proves tanning beds are much less safe than the industry led us believe.

Last month, new research provided further vindication for the crackdown on tanning salons.

And it’s not just dangerous for teens.

A meta-study, published in the British Medical Journal, scanned previous research and confirmed that young people almost double their risk of melanoma by using tanning beds. In fact, the risk is almost the same for anyone under 35.

Furthermore, anyone who uses a tanning bed at any stage in their lives faces at least a 20 per cent increased risk of this deadliest form of skin cancer.

The latent effect of previous sunbed use is alarming. The report found that the number of people 50 and over suffering melanoma has tripled in 30 years.

It is the fastest growing form of cancer for women in their 20s.

Quoted in Britain’s Daily Mail, French researcher Dr. Mathieu Boniol said tougher actions are needed to get the message across.

“The burden of cancer attributable to sunbed use could further increase in the next 20 years,” said Boniol, who led the study, “because the recent, high usage levels observed in many countries have not yet achieved their full carcinogenic effects and because usage levels of teenagers and young adults remain high in many countries.”

The most galling aspect of all this is that, once again, those who stand to lose the most from these findings have been running a steady campaign of obfuscation.

Taking a cue from Big Tobacco, the tanning bed industry has fought hard to rescue its business from bad press. It has recruited fringe dermatologists to downplay the risks, and thrown up dubious research to create the illusion of debate.

Time will tell whether this deception will result in massive legal action.

But it’s one more reason why citizens should sit up and take notice whenever mainstream scientists find themselves in the firing line for no good reason.

As for tanning, if you think it makes you drop-dead gorgeous, you may be more right than you know.

Organizations: British Medical Journal, Daily Mail

Geographic location: Caribbean, Nova Scotia, Oakville Ontario Britain

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