Dr. John Turner, dermatologist at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, said he has seen melanoma in patients as young as 14.
"Contrary to common belief, skin cancer is not an older person's disease. Young people today associate tans with attractiveness, thanks to television shows and magazines that glorify the bronzed look, but the truth is that there is no such thing as a healthy tan," Turner said in a statement. "A tan is actually the body's response to irreparable skin damage at the cellular level and each time a person gets a tan, his or her risk of skin cancer rises."
Tanning beds, in particular, often used by those as young as in their teens, can emit up to five times more harmful ultraviolet rays than the sun and studies show that use of tanning equipment before the age of 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, Turner added.
The main way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid too much ultraviolet radiation -- from either the sun or tanning beds -- especially if excess exposure begins in adolescence or young adulthood.
Those at greatest risk of developing melanoma are people with fair skin, freckles, red or blond hair, a history of severe sunburns even as a child, an unusual number of moles, a family history of melanoma, and excessive ultraviolet exposure from the sun or tanning beds, the Canadian Dermatology Association said.