Young people who use sunbeds 'are twice as likely to develop deadliest skin cancer'Tanning devices could be responsible for more than 400 cases of malignant melanoma in Britain each yearRisk rises by 20 per cent for people who use a sunbed at any stage in their lives
03:23 GMT, 25 July 2012
Young people who use sunbeds almost double their risk of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer, warn researchers.
The risk rises by 20 per cent for people using a sunbed at any stage in their lives, according to new estimates.
As a result, tanning devices could be responsible for triggering malignant melanoma in more than 400 Britons each year – with 100 dying from the disease.
Warning: Young people who use sunbeds almost double their risk of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer, researchers say
A stark warning from European specialists about the perils of sunbed use comes after figures showed the number of over 50s suffering melanoma has tripled in 30 years.
Experts blame the rise of tanning salons and cheap holidays to the sun which boomed in the 1970s.
The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, says the toll from sunbed use is likely to increase as cancer takes several years to develop and young people fail to heed health warnings.
Dr Mathieu Boniol, of the International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, who led the study, said 'tougher actions' were needed to get the message across.
He said 'The burden of cancer attributable to sunbed use could further increase in the next 20 years because the recent, high usage levels observed in many countries have not yet achieved their full carcinogenic effects and because usage levels of teenagers and young adults remain high in many countries.'
Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, with almost 13,000 Britons diagnosed in 2010.
Tragically, it is the fastest growing cancer in young people and the most common cancer in women in their 20s.
Melanoma, which is linked to sun damage, is treatable if caught early but patients who develop metastatic disease – where the cancer has spread – are rarely cured with chemotherapy.
Just five per cent are still alive five years after diagnosis, with around 2,000 people dying each year.
Deadly: Melanoma (pictured) is treatable if caught early but patients who develop metastatic disease – where the cancer has spread – are rarely cured with chemotherapy
In the new study, researchers looked at data from 27 studies conducted between 1981 and 2012 involving 11,428 cases of melanoma.
It showed the risk of developing the cancer increased by 20 per cent for those who had ever used an indoor tanning device with ultraviolet light.
But the chances of developing melanoma shot up in those people who started using sunbeds before their 35th birthday – with the risk almost doubling.
The study estimated the use of sunbeds leads to almost 3,500 cases of skin cancer and 800 deaths every year across Europe.
It suggested there were 444 cases and 99 deaths attributable to sunbed use in Britons – with the toll four times higher in women than men.
The researchers pointed out that the dangers of indoor tanning have only recently been recognised.
'Powerful ultraviolet tanning units may be 10-15 times stronger than the midday sunlight on the Mediterranean sea, and repeated exposure to large amounts of ultraviolet A delivered to the skin in relatively short periods (typically 10-20 minutes constitutes a new experience for humans,' said the study.
The researchers called for tanning under the age of 18 to be restricted, and unsupervised tanning salons to be banned – laws that are already in place in Australia and several European countries.
They accuse the sunbed industry of giving 'information intended to deceive consumers'.
'The sunbed industry has used the opportunity to claim that properly regulated indoor tanning is safe, and that it might even have health benefits' they said.
In the UK, scientists at the Health Protection Agency say sunbeds should never be used by the under 18s.
Changes to the law in England mean those aged under 18 cannot use tanning salons or sunbeds at commercial premises, and restrictions also apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.