Skin cancer survivor says getting a 'base tan' is a bad idea

A woman from Saskatchewan is speaking out about the dangers of tanning beds and the idea that getting a "base tan" is a good way to protect against future sunburns.

Anti-tanning advocate Annette Cyr has had 16-year battle with skin cancer

Women are twice as likely as men to use tanning beds, a Statistics Canada report says.

A woman from Saskatchewan is speaking out about the dangers of tanning beds and the idea that getting a "base tan" is a good way to protect against future sunburns.

Annette Cyr, the co-founder of the Melanoma Network of Canada, said a recent Statistics Canada report on tanning equipment shows there are still too many people risking their lives by tanning.

I hope to never have to deal with it again but there's no guarantees.- Annette Cyr, co-founder of Melanoma Network of Canada

Ultraviolet radiation from tanning may cause sunburns, premature skin aging, a suppressed immune system, and increased risk of skin cancer, the report says.

It also says that according to 2014 data, 4.5 per cent of Canadians aged 12 or older (about 1.35 million people) reported that they used tanning equipment in the past year, with females more likely to use the equipment than males.

Cyr is a three-time survivor of melanoma — a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

She hopes by sharing her experience, others will be less likely to use tanning beds.

"It was just horrific, absolutely horrific," she told CBC Radio's Morning Edition. "It's been a 16-year battle with this stuff. I hope to never have to deal with it again but there's no guarantees."

According to the Statistics Canada report, the No. 1 reason people use tanning equipment is to get a base tan before they head to the beach.

Base tan provides little protection: StatsCan

But the report says "several studies have shown that a base tan provides little protection against future sunburns and any protection provided would be modest compared with that offered by sunscreen use.

It adds, "no compelling evidence suggests that a base tan reduced the risk of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers."

Cyr said it's hard to get the danger warnings through to younger people who are tanning. Saskatchewan prohibited people under the age of 18from using tanning beds in 2015.

While a 2006 study found about nine per cent of Canadians used tanning equipment, half that percentage were using it in 2014.

However, the Statistics Canada report says it was estimated that 81,700 Canadians would develop some form of skin cancer in 2013 and that 1,470 people would die from it.

"These numbers are projected to rise, based on Canada's aging population and previous tanning behaviour," the report says.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition