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After years of lobbying by health groups Alberta is finally moving to ban young people from using indoor tanning beds over growing fears about skin cancer.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After years of lobbying by health groups Alberta is finally moving to ban young people from using indoor tanning beds over growing fears about skin cancer.

The government says youths under 18 will not be allowed to use ultraviolet tanning machines starting on Jan. 1.

Businesses will also be prohibited from advertising such machines to minors and must post signs about the age restrictions and the dangers of UV tanning.

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"Research has shown that using artificial tanning when you are under 35 dramatically increases your risk for melanoma," Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said Wednesday.

"The changes we're making will help protect our youth from a disease that affects hundreds of Albertans every year and gives Albertans better information about the risks of artificial tanning."

Alberta's Skin Cancer Prevention (Artificial Tanning) Act was passed by the legislature in March 2015 but has just been proclaimed.

The government said it needed time to consult with businesses and health groups before setting a date for the ban.

Alberta is the only province that still allows people under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning equipment.

The Canadian Cancer Society had been urging the NDP government to take action, warning the delay has been putting young people at risk of developing skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma.

The society outlined its concerns about the delay to Hoffman in a letter on March 6.

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Dan Holinda, a Canadian Cancer Society spokesman, praised the government Wednesday for proclaiming the legislation.

"Preventing teen use of artificial tanning equipment will reduce skin cancer, which, despite being highly preventable, is one of the fastest-rising cancers," Holinda said in a release.

"As a survivor of this disease myself, I want to thank the government for proclaiming this act – it will save lives."

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Alberta and accounts for more than one-third of all new cancer cases.

UV radiation exposure accounts for about 82 per cent of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing preventable cancers and research indicates that using indoor tanning equipment during youth increases the risk of melanoma by nearly 60 per cent.

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The society estimates that one-third of 17-year-old girls have used tanning beds.

In 2014, there were 665 new cases of melanoma in Alberta and 64 deaths due to the disease.

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