'Tougher actions' needed to reduce deadly toll of sunbeds

In collaboration with the Press Association

Every year, sunbeds cause more than one in twenty cases of the most serious type of skin cancer in Europe, French and Italian research has revealed.

The new study estimates that 5.4 per cent of the 63,942 new cases of melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in 2008 were linked to sunbed use.

Cancer Research UK said the study provides "the strongest evidence yet of the link between sunbed use and skin cancer."

Sunbeds are the second most significant environmental cause of skin cancer, after exposure to UV radiation from the sun itself.

The new research looked at data from 27 studies across Europe.

The analysis found that anyone who had used a sunbed had a 20 per cent higher risk of developing skin cancer compared with those who had never used one. This figure rose to an 87 per cent higher risk for people who first used sunbeds before the age of 35, and an additional 1.8 per cent increase in risk for every further sunbed session per year.

The authors say the sunbed industry is not able to "self-regulate effectively" but instead give "information intended to deceive consumers".

The researchers call for tougher regulations governing the use of sunbeds across Europe. They cite Australia, and European countries such as the UK, where under-18s face restrictions on sunbed use and unsupervised tanning salons are banned.

Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said the study also found that using sunbeds increased the risk of two other less serious but more common types of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

"It's now clearer than ever that sunbeds aren't a safe alternative to tanning in the sun. If you really want a tanned appearance it's better to fake it," she added.

Dr Knight also advised that skin cancer is easier to treat when found at an early stage, pointing out the importance of reporting unusual changes to the skin to the doctor without delay.

The study is published in the BMJ and was carried out by experts from the International Prevention Research Institute in France and the European Institute of Oncology in Italy.

Copyright Press Association 2012

References

  • Boniol, M., Autier, P., Boyle, P. & Gandini, S. (2012). Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ, 345 (jul24 2) e4757. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e4757