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Young people warned of sunbed cancer risks

Sunbed exposure before the age of 35 linked to massive melanoma risk say cancer experts

OnMedica Staff

Tuesday, 08 April 2008

People who use sunbeds from an early age are being warned that they increase their risk of melanoma by 75% according to Cancer Research UK

A study to coincide with the launch today of CRUK's SunSmart summer safety campaign reveals that 82% of sunbed users started before they were 35 years old. It also found that one in three women and one in four men had used a sunbed.
The charity wants to dispel what it says is a common misconception that sunbeds are a "safe" way to get a tan. Launching its annual SunSmart campaign today it says younger users must be aware of the serious risks of cancer.

It cites authoritative data from the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) which reveals that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays carries a 75% increase in the risk of skin cancer, and is just as dangerous as being burnt on the beach.

It says the intensity of some UV rays from sunbeds can be as much as 15 times higher than that of the midday sun. Repeated exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells, which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster.

Rates of melanoma have quadrupled since the 1970s, with 9,000 new cases diagnosed each year and 1,800 people dying from the disease. Almost one third of cases occur in people under 50 and it is the most common cancer in young adults aged 15-34.

CRUK is calling for England and Wales to follow the lead of Scotland, where there is a proposed Public Health Bill to ban under 18s from using sunbeds and legislate for all sunbed salons to be supervised and proper information provided to customers. It also wants a ban on unmanned coin-operated machines which it says are used by very young children.

SunSmart campaign manager, Rebecca Russell, said: "The results of our survey make for a stark warning to young people about the dangers of indoor tanning."

The Sunbed Association (TSA) has reacted angrily to the CRUK's tactics in launching SunSmart saying that it perpetuates "myths" about sunbed exposure. And it cast doubt over the accuracy of data on the incidence of melanoma.

In a statement it said: "It is the opinion of TSA that CRUK, through the government funded SunSmart campaign, is using its valuable funds to perpetuate myths about sunbed use and scare people away from using sunbeds when the available science does not support their claims.

"Whilst there may be a case for introducing standards to ensure that all tanning facilities are operating to good practice, the effect this may have on reducing the incidence of skin cancer is likely to be minimal. This is because our greatest source of UV exposure is from the sun and it is essential that due consideration be given to peoples’ outdoor exposure habits if there is to be any positive impact on skin cancer prevention."

And it says such campaigning creates unnecessary worry for patients and work for the NHS. "The SunSmart campaign amongst other efforts has seen an exponential increase in the number of worried people having skin screenings. There has been a big increase in reports of melanoma but what is now being called melanoma may in fact be nothing of the sort and the increase can simply be put down to a reclassification of what constitutes malignancy.

"This is supported by the fact that whilst the incidence of melanoma has increased, it has not been accompanied by a corresponding change in mortality. Skin cancer still lies at the bottom of the mortality table on cancer incidences."

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