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Sunbeds Not ‘Safe Way To Tan’ Warns Cancer Society

Young people who bronze themselves at tanning salons double their risk of developing some types of skin cancer, a US study has found. This has prompted the Cancer Society to renew its warnings to sunbed users.

“The US study shows yet again that sunbed use is not safe – even though some solarium operators say different,” says Cancer Society Health Promotion Programme Manager Liz Price. “We are really concerned that people are not being told of the risks associated with sunbed use.”

Liz Price says that an informal survey by the Society late last year found that eight of 16 solarium operators interviewed 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 of the skin.

“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.


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