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Fernie and Elk Valley students campaign to combat teen tanning

The Canadian Cancer Society BC & Yukon launched its 2nd annual Tan-Free Grad Challenge, and secondary school students across BC are set to fight back against cancer by encouraging their classmates to forego the “prom tan”, and instead, rock it in the skin they’re in.

“We want our classmates to embrace their skin tones and know that they don't need to be tanned to be beautiful" says Caileigh Rendek, a student at Prince Charles Secondary School in Creston.  “We want to get the facts about tanning out there so that our classmates can make their own informed decisions."

Melanoma skin cancer – the most severe form of skin cancer – is the third most common form of cancer for people between the ages of 15 and 29. In an effort to prevent skin cancer, grade 12 students are leading the Challenge by educating their peers on the dangers of Ultraviolet radiation from both the sun and indoor tanning equipment and collecting pledges from fellow students to be tan-free for their graduation.

According to Cranbrook Mount Baker Secondary student Amanda Musso, “We know that there is no safe way to get a tan and that any use of indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 can increase a person’s risk of melanoma.  Our goal is to help change peoples’ attitudes towards tans and save our peers from making harmful choices.”

“Last year, over 3,000 students pledged to be tan-free for their graduation,” says Patti Moore, Team Leader of Health Promotion at the Canadian Cancer Society.  “The Society hopes to increase this number significantly by engaging over 30 schools in 2012.”

In addition to the Challenge, the Society is advocating to the BC government to follow the lead of Nova Scotia and Southern Vancouver Island by banning indoor tanning for youth under 18—a recommendation that is shared by leading health organizations such the World Health Organization, the BC Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Dermatology Association, the Medical Health Officers of BC and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

According to Moore, a recent poll commissioned by the Society shows that three-quarters of British Columbians would support restricting youth access to indoor tanning equipment. You can make your voice heard.  The Society has created a special web-link at cancergameplan.ca where BC residents can write a letter to the Health Minister, telling him that legislation prohibiting indoor tanning for those under 18 is not directive, but rather health protective.

For any schools that are interested in holding a Tan Free Challenge at their school, please contact Amanda Harris at the Canadian Cancer Society Southern Interior Region office at 1-800-403-8222.

Established in 1938, the Canadian Cancer Society is a national charity that fights cancer by doing everything we can to prevent cancer, fund research and support people living with cancer. Join the fight! Visit our website at cancer.ca  or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

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