Thursday, March 17, 2005

Under 18s 'shouldn't use sunbeds

BBC Health News has a great story on teenage uyse of sunbeds:

Under 18s should never use a sunbed, world health experts have said.

The World Health Organization guidance said young people who get burnt from exposure to UV have a greater risk of skin cancer as adults.

Research has made a direct link between the use of sunbeds and cancer. There are 132,000 cases of the most dangerous form of skin cancer globally each year.

The WHO said it was issuing its warning now as many people began to think about developing a tan as summer approached.

The consequence of this sunbed usage has been a precipitous rise in the number of skin cancer cases
Dr Kerstin Leitner, WHO

The WHO warns some sunbeds can emit levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which are many times stronger than the mid-day summer sun in most countries.

The highest skin cancer rates are found mainly in places where people are fairest-skinned and where it is seen as socially desirable to have a tan, such as Australia, New Zealand, North America and northern Europe.

An estimated 66,000 people die each year from the most dangerous skin cancer, malignant melanoma, and other forms of the disease.

In Norway and Sweden, the annual incidence rate for skin cancer has tripled in the last 45 years, while, in the US, the rate has doubled in the last 30 years.

In the UK, there are around 70,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year.

A rise in the use of sunbeds, combined with the fashion for a tan, are considered to be the prime reasons behind the increase in skin cancers.

'Mounting concern

Only in France and California are under 18s banned from using sunbeds.

And Belgium, France and Sweden are the only countries to limit the levels of the most dangerous form of UV radiation, UV-B from sunbeds.

The WHO called on other countries to introduce more stringent regulations.

The UK's Sunbed Association said it had a voluntary code which says no-one under 16 should be allowed to use a sunbed.

Dr Kerstin Leitner, WHO Assistant Director-General responsible for environmental health, said: "There has been mounting concern over the past several years that people and in particular, teenagers are using sunbeds excessively to acquire tans which are seen as socially desirable.

"However, the consequence of this sunbed usage has been a precipitous rise in the number of skin cancer cases.

"We are therefore calling attention to this fact and we would hope that this recommendation will inspire regulatory authorities to adopt stricter controls on the usage of sunbeds."

Dr Leitner advised: "Avoid excess exposure to UV and, when you have to be in the sun, protect your skin.

"Malignant melanomas, other cancers and conditions are the consequence of not taking the proper precautions."

Jo Viner Smith, manager of the Cancer Research UK's skin cancer prevention campaign SunSmart said: "We particularly discourage sunbed use by people with skin that is more susceptible to sun damage; for example, those with fair hair, freckles, moles, or whose skin burns easily and among under-16s.

"This recommendation goes one step further extending that age to 18."

She added: "We hope this recommendation from the world's leading experts will help our campaign in advocating enforced regulations about sunbeds.

"As introduction of a law looks unlikely we want the sunbed industry to focus on self-regulation. We also hope the recommendation will stop tanning salons from targeting young people with claims of unproven health benefits."

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