Research published in the British Medical Journal has found that a quarter of a million British children between the ages of 11 and 17 are significantly risking their health by using sunbeds to get a fake tan. More than a quarter of the 250,000 interviewed, said they used a sunbed at least once a month.
The Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine and St James’s Institute of Oncology found that using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases the risk of skin cancer by a staggering 75%. Despite this, there is no legislation restricting the use of sunbeds for children in the UK.
In the cities of Liverpool and Sunderland, the number of 15-17 year old's using tanning beds has reached epic proportions as half of all teens from those cities, use them regularly. However, only 11% of young people are informed of how to use a sunbed by staff, or told of the risk of side-effects.
Children from deprived areas and from poorer families were more likely to use a sunbed than those who were better off. Peer pressure is also thought to play a role, as many children feel under pressure to have tanned skin as it is seen as 'fashionable'.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's Health Information Director, said
"Allowing children to be regularly exposed to harmful radiation from sunbeds is irresponsible. The COMARE report recommended that the Government take strong action to protect young people from the dangers of using sunbeds. This included stopping under 18s from using sunbeds, closing down unmanned, coin-operated salons and ensuring that local enforcement officers have powers to inspect salons and check that minimum standards are being met."
Incidence rates of malignant melanoma have quadrupled since 1970 with 10% of cases in the under 35's. There were 10,400 cases in the UK in 2006 and on average there are 2000 deaths every year from this type of cancer so it is vitally important that young people are given accurate information about the dangers of sunbeds, before they use them.
Sources: Cancer Research UK Press Release, 13th November 2009 and BMJ 2009;339:b4643, doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4643 (Published 12 November 2009).