75% risk of cancer for sun bed users

EIGHT out of 10 sunbed users in the East of England have increased their risk of developing a life-threatening form of skin cancer by 75%, according to new research.

Danielle Nuttall

EIGHT out of 10 sunbed users in the East of England have increased their risk of developing a life-threatening form of skin cancer by 75%, according to new research.

A survey of 4,000 people across the UK, commissioned by the charity Cancer Research UK, found 82% of sunbed users first soaked up artificial tanning rays before the age of 35.

A study by the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) warns people who begin using sunbeds under the age of 35 increase their risk of malignant melanoma - a disease affecting 700 people in the East of England every year.

Malignant melanoma is now the most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 34 and can be fatal. More women are diagnosed with melanoma but more men die from the disease.

In the East of England, there are about 11 cases of malignant melanoma per 100,000 people diagnosed every year while across the UK almost 9,000 cases are diagnosed annually.

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On the day it launched its SunSmart campaign, Cancer Research UK warned sunbed users in the East of England that over exposure to UV rays in the tanning salon was as dangerous as getting burnt on the beach.

Jane Redman, the charity's spokeswoman for the East of England, said: “The results of our survey make for a stark warning to young people across the region about the dangers of indoor tanning.

“You can't always see the damage that UV does straight away. It builds up over time. But every time you use a sunbed you are harming your skin and increasing your risk of skin cancer.

“Our SunSmart campaign has previously focused on the dangers of sunburn which increases your risk of skin cancer. This year our key message is to alert young people about the damage sunbeds can do to their skin, especially if they have fair skin that doesn't tan easily.

“Cancer Research UK is particularly concerned about young teenagers using sunbeds, and is working with the Government to review options for possible regulation of the industry. We would like legislation to prevent under 18s using sunbeds and to ban unmanned coin-operated sunbeds which can attract under-age and vulnerable users.”

The charity's survey found that as many as one in three women questioned had used a sunbed.

The charity said over exposure to artificial UV in sunbeds was just as dangerous as staying out too long in sun and said the intensity of some UV rays from sunbeds can be 10-15 times higher than that of the midday sun.

Skin cancer: causes and risks

Excessive UV exposure is the main cause of both kinds of skin cancer. Other factors that increase skin cancer risk are:

nPeople with light eyes or hair, who sunburn easily or do not tan.

nPeople with a lot of moles, unusually shaped or large moles or a lot of freckles.

nA history of sunburn doubles the risk of melanoma.

nUsing sunbeds.

nFamily history of skin cancer

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