Charity urges government to act now and put restrictions on sunbed use

Cancer Research UK

Tomorrow Scotland takes steps to protect children from sunbeds by banning under 18s from using them and ensuring adults are fully informed of the risks, Cancer Research UK wants Westminster to bring the rest of the UK up to Scottish standards.

The charity is urging the government to stop under 18s from using sunbeds, to ensure that accurate health information is provided to all customers and that all salons are staffed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month the British Medical Journal published the major findings from a Cancer Research UK survey1 which found that half of all 15-17 year old girls in Liverpool and Sunderland used a sunbed. And 40 per cent of these girls went on a sunbed at least once a week.

Skin cancer rates are rising faster than any other type of cancer and have more than quadrupled in the last 30 years – rising from 3.4 people per 100,000 in 1977 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2006.

Almost every day of the year in the UK a girl in her 20s is diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer. In this age range there are twice as many cases of melanoma as there are of breast cancer.

And experts believe that an increase in use of sunbeds is partly to blame.

Especially worrying is the number of under 35s diagnosed with malignant melanoma which is now the most common cancer for young people aged 15-34 in the UK.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: “The time has come for the government to take the dangers of sunbed use seriously and pass legislation. Not only are sunbeds now classified in the highest risk category for cancer, alongside tobacco, but there’s also strong scientific evidence to show the damage they cause to the skin – both increasing skin cancer risk and ageing the skin.

“Using sunbeds has no general health benefits. In fact the intensity of UV rays in some sunbeds can be more than 10 times stronger than the midday sun. And damage from UV builds up over time. So whenever people use a sunbed they are harming their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer.”

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References

1. Cancer Research UK carried out two surveys:

The first survey, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, was carried out by BMRB Omnibus and consisted of face to face interviews with 3,101 children aged 11-17 across England.

The second survey, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, was carried out by LVQ Research Ltd and consisted of face to face interviews with 6,209 children aged 11-17 across six different cities in England.

The surveys were published as a letter in the BMJ.

  • In Liverpool 20.0% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed.
  • In Stoke & Stafford 6.8% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed
  • In Sunderland 18.0% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed
  • In Bath/Gloucester 6.6% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed
  • In Oxford/Cambridge 7.5% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed
  • In Southampton 6.2% of 11-17 year olds have used a sunbed

Notes to Editor

About skin cancer

  • More than 10,400 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in the UK in 2006.
  • More than 2,600 people die from skin cancer each year in the UK.
  • More information about skin cancer