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Sunbeds Not ‘Safe Way To Tan’ Warns Cancer Society

The Cancer Society is concerned that people are not being told of the risks associated with sunbed use.

Cancer Society Health Promotion Programme Manager Liz Price says that a recent informal survey by the Society found that eight of 16 solarium operators said that sunbeds were ‘a safe way to tan’.

“This is just not true. Exposure to all forms of ultra violet radiation increases the risk of skin cancer, and sunbeds are no exception.”

She said that ultraviolet rays from tanning lamps were often much stronger than those from the sun. The dangers of using sunbeds included blistering, burns and swelling, damage to the eyes, aging of skin and skin cancer.

The Society surveyed six solarium operators in Auckland and 10 in Wellington. Safety information wasn’t available in most salons, only two salons alluded to the aging effects of sunbed use and only one operator indicated that a client’s family history of skin cancer was important.

Dermatologist Dr Marius Rademaker says that all sunbed operators should fully inform potential clients of the risks associated with exposure to ultraviolet rays, and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines for operators of ultraviolet tanning lamps.

“Solariums usually claim to use mainly ultraviolet A. This penetrates the top layer of the skin and causes damage to the lower layer. UVA exposure causes skin to age prematurely and increases your risk of skin cancer. Other effects include roughening, blotchiness, wrinkling and general looseness.

“Twenty minutes in a sunbed can be the equivalent to approximately four hours in the sun. The more UVR you are exposed to, the higher the risk of skin cancer. So using a sunbed, and then going out into the sun gives you a ‘double whammy’ of UVR.”

Dr Rademaker said that only one of the 16 salons had health and safety leaflets about sunbeds that could be taken home to read.

“Consumers must have access to appropriate information so they are able to make an informed choice about sunbed use.”

Points to note about solariums:

 A solarium tan is induced by ultraviolet radiation
 Ultraviolet radiation contributes to skin cancer
 Ultraviolet radiation causes premature ageing of the skin. This may be evident as wrinkling, loss of elasticity, sagging, yellowish discolouration and brown patches.
 No solarium can give a safe tan.


November 11-17 is SunSmart Awareness Week during which the Cancer Society hopes people will become more aware of the dangers of exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the need to protect themselves in the sun. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with nearly 50,000 new skin cancers each year. Melanoma, regarded as the most serious skin cancer, kills about 200 New Zealanders a year.


Ends

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