Sunbeds 'raise risk of ALL skin cancers' especially among those who use device before age 25
06:41 GMT, 3 October 2012
Sunbeds raise the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, particularly when people start using them before the age of 25, warn researchers.
Although indoor tanning devices are already linked to the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, a new study says they also trigger other damaging forms of the disease.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) affects many thousands of Britons each year.
Indoor tanning is already an established risk factor for malignant melanoma, but a study has found it is probably a risk factor for both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, which are the most common human cancers
They are triggered by sun damage and, although not usually fatal, may be disfiguring without treatment.
The latest study shows sunbed users have a 67 per cent greater risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer and a 29 per cent higher risk of basal cell carcinoma compared with people who have never used indoor tanning.
It found that exposure to sunbeds before the age of 25 was significantly linked with a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma.
US researchers from the University of California in San Francisco led by Professor Eleni Linos analysed 12 studies involving 9,328 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer.
They concluded that sunbed use accounts for 8.2 per cent of squamous cell skin cancers and 3.7 per cent of all basal cell carcinoma cases in the US.
The study, published on bmj.com, says there is a ‘critical’ period in early life when the damage is initiated and that greater exposure leads to a higher chance of developing skin cancer.
Prof Linos said the dramatic increase in the two most common human cancers in recent years has been dubbed an ‘epidemic’ but previous attempts to examine the link with indoor tanning devices has produced varied results.
She said ‘Indoor tanning, which is already an established risk factor for malignant melanoma, is probably a risk factor for both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, which are the most common human cancers.
‘Our findings add to the growing body of evidence on the harms of indoor tanning.
‘We hope that these findings can support public health campaigns and motivate increased regulation to reduce exposure to this carcinogen, especially during early life.’
More than 76,500 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year, with 90 per cent caused by ultraviolet light exposure.
It is estimated the actual figure could be at least 100,000 because NMSC is under-reported as many people do not seek medical help.
Although sunbeds are already linked to melanoma, a new study says they also trigger other damaging forms of the disease
Lesions usually appear on the areas most exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, ears, and back of the hands.
As well as raising the risk of skin cancer, UV rays are known to increase the rate of ageing, leading to lines and wrinkles.
Researchers from the Population Health Department in Australia, in an accompanying editorial, said young people in particular should be made aware of the dangers of sunbed use.
‘The known risks of skin cancer from indoor tanning currently outweigh its potential benefits’ they said.
‘Many countries have enacted legislation to tighten regulations on the sunbed industry during the past decade.
A total ban is in place in Brazil, and legislation prohibits use by people under 18 years in France; Spain; Portugal; Germany; Austria; Belgium; the United Kingdom; and parts of Australia, Canada, and the United States.
‘These regulations must be tethered to warnings by health professionals and educators about the risks of indoor tanning.
Young people in particular should be made aware that the use of sunbeds for short term cosmetic tanning carries the long term price of an increased risk of skin cancer.’
Gary Lipman, chairman of The Sunbed Association, said ‘Unlike in the USA where the study was conducted, we already have legislation throughout the UK prohibiting sunbed use by under 18s.
‘Over 18s using sunbed salons in membership of The Sunbed Association are carefully screened to ensure appropriate use or refusal of use where contraindications exist.
‘In addition, the USA has a history of high-pressure sunbeds, whereas the UK industry is predominantly low-pressure.
‘Responsible tanning should be the key message to young people. Increased incidence levels will be due in part to increased awareness, as well as sunburn incidence and other factors.
‘What the study fails to mention is that basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are called cancers because of their appearance under the microscope, not in the way they behave.
They are skin lesions and functionally benign, ie they do not spread from the skin and kill.
‘Responsible use of a sunbed is a reliable source of obtaining UVB to obtain and maintain vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D levels are low in nearly all European countries, including the UK, and experts believe increasing vitamin D status would be the most cost effective method to improve health across Europe.’