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New health concerns for sunbeds

 - New health concerns for sunbeds

New research has been published which suggests that using a sunbed can
be as carcinogenic as smoking. MARIAN BUCKLEY reports.

Research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) indicates that sunbeds and sunlamps are "carcinogenic to humans" and experts have now placed sunbeds in the top risk category. The IARC is a committee that makes recommendations to the World Health Organization, and its report published in The Lancet Oncology on July 29 2009 analyzed over 20 epidemiological studies. Researchers found that the risk of cutaneous melanoma (which is the most deadly form of skin cancer) is "increased by 75% when the use of tanning devices
starts before age 30. There is also sufficient evidence of an increased risk of ocular melanoma associated with the use of tanning devices. Studies in experimental animals support these conclusions and demonstrate that ultraviolet radiation (UVA, UVB, and UVC) is carcinogenic to humans." Previous IARC research had suggested that sunbeds and sunlamps were "probably carcinogenic to humans." The Department of Health is now reviewing its stance on sunbeds as a result of the report.

The latest report has re-opened the debate on whether tanning salons should be subject to stricter regulations. According to Jessica Harris, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, "The link between sunbeds and skin cancer has been convincingly shown in a number of scientific studies now and so we are very pleased that IARC have upgraded sunbeds to the highest risk category. This backs up
Cancer Research UK's advice to avoid sunbeds completely for cosmetic
purposes. They have no health benefits and we know that they increase the risk of cancer."

Scotland has taken the lead by introducing new legal requirements for sunbed operators. These will come into force in November 2009 and include a ban on unsupervised tanning and treatments for under 18s; operators will also be required to display a health notice which the Scottish government is now preparing. The Sunbed Association (TSA) was established in 1995 to promote good practice within the industry and its own Code of Practice stipulates that no-one under 16 should be
allowed to use a sunbed, even with parental consent. The Association promotes self-regulation of the industry and follows the European Standard. It does not, however, see a ban on under 18s using sunbeds as an issue. Its chief executive Kathy Banks has said: "The relationship between ultraviolet exposure and an increased risk of developing skin cancer is only likely to arise where over-exposure - burning - has
taken place. However, research has shown that over 80% of sunbed users are very knowledgeable about the risks associated with over-exposure to ultraviolet and the majority of sunbed users take 20 or less sunbed sessions a year."

At the very least, sunbed users need to be extremely cautious. Sun lamps emit up to three times the amount of UV light as those used ten years ago, and safety checks reported by The Daily Mail two years ago revealed that four out of five beds tested broke saftey standards. In the last 30 years rates of skin cancer have more than quadrupled. Currently 70,0000 cases are diagnosed each year in Britain and the
number of people with melanoma has now reached over 10,000 a year for the first time. The latest concerns could result in sunbed operators being licensed and registered with local authorities and make health warnings on the devices compulsory. It is also likely that new guidelines by the Department of Health will require operators to inform sunbed users of the possible health risks.

It is best to avoid both direct sunlight and the carcinogenic UV and UVB rays emitted by sunbeds - if you still want a glowing tan, your health is better served by opting for one of the many fake tanning products available.

Related articles:
Tanning moisturizers
How to apply fake tan


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