Sunbed ban “could halt toll of skin cancer in under-40s” for one in four cases
75,000 Brits are reported to be diagnosed each year with sicknessSunbeds responsible for 100 deaths a year
A quarter of cases of the most common form of skin cancer in the under-40s could be prevented if sunbeds were banned, research suggests.
Indoor tanning significantly increases the risk of basal cell carcinoma, according to the first rigorous study into the disease in young people.
It found that sunbed users are 69 per cent more likely to develop BCC before the age of 40 than people who never use the tanning method.
Indoor sunbeds are increasing the likelihood of people getting skin cancers
The link was strongest among women, and the risk increased with years of sunbed use.
Without sunbeds, a quarter of all cases of ‘early onset’ BCC – when the disease occurs before the age of 40 – could be prevented, the study concluded.
Among women, who are greater users of sunbeds, 43 per cent of cases could be avoided if sunbeds were banned.
Every year around 75,000 Britons develop BCC, most of whom are over the age of 60.
Unlike rarer forms of skin cancer, such as malignant melanoma, BCC can be easily treated and survival rates stand at 98 per cent.
But since the 1970s cases have increased by 17 per cent, which is likely to be partly fuelled by sunbed use and holidays abroad.
And British doctors say they are seeing increasing numbers of youngsters with this type of cancer.In April, under-18s were banned from using sunbeds although they still remain popular and three million adults use them every year.
Too much natural sunlight is also believed to lead to potential skin cancers
This study, from doctors at Yale University in the U.S. and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, is the latest to show the damaging effects of sunbeds on the skin. Previous studies have shown that indoor tanning increases the risk of malignant melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – by 74 per cent.
It is estimated that sunbeds are responsible for 100 melanoma deaths each year in the UK. Dr David J. Leffell, professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale School of Medicine and author of the study, said: ‘We routinely see young women with skin cancer in our practice.
‘In the past, this was extremely rare. But now in many cases the patients acknowledge their use of tanning parlours, and I think this study confirms the harmful nature of this activity.’
Dr Raj Mallipeddi, a consultant dermatologist at St Thomas’ Hospital and the Lister Hospital, London, said: ‘This is consistent with my own experience in the UK of seeing a greater number of younger patients with BCC in recent years.
‘Although the explanation is multifactorial, sunbed use is undoubtedly an important factor and this study adds to the growing evidence that sunbeds are harmful.
‘Studies like this should educate people to avoid them.’
According to Cancer Research UK there are at least 2,000 cases of BCC in the under 40s every year, although this is likely to be an underestimate.