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To be sun-tanned or not – a question that is sometimes worth a person’s life…

Every now and then I meet a well-tanned person. Sometimes they are very very well tanned and it definitely is not achieved with tanning lotions. I personally like the good tan. I was raised in the years when staying out in the sun was believed to be a very healthy thing - so any time spent on the beach or around the pool was like a good investment in one’s health.

After people came to their senses and stopped playing around with the dangerous sun rays – well, there came the tanning bed salon fashion.

I have personally experienced several tanning bed (or sunbed as we called them) salon sessions about ten years ago - I do not quite remember what the reason for the abrupt stopping my visits might have been but it surely had to do more with personal issues like hygiene rather than the actually realizing the risk of the ultraviolet radiation. Every day we are reading more and more articles on sunbeds and sunlamps related with malignant melanomas… And yet many people, mostly women, go on using them on daily basis.

My younger niece is in love with tanning bed salons. With her blond hair and green eyes, she really looks attractive when tanned although I personally like her a lot in her porcelain skin. When I tried to pull out a good argument against sunbeds, we would argue for a while, then she would say she just loved looking that way (meaning: Period to discussions!) and she would always confront me that I once participated in the sunbedding  game myself, no matter for how short. Usually after the “once a tanner, always a tanner” verdict I always seem to lose the battle with her and she keeps going regularly there to fry her pale skin in that human toaster… And she loves the results.

I have just been browsing the Daily Mail online health section when I came across a very interesting article – “Sunbeds as lethal as cigarettes: Experts class tanning with smoking and asbestos as top cancer risks”. A catchy title.

I thought it might be a good idea to share it. It is not some breaking news or anything that we did not know. Information about the danger of sunbeds has long been around and yet health is health but beauty is beauty. Bronzer tanning lotions are not much loved by sunbed lovers as they have temporary effects and leave you walking like a live carrot girl* - so “natural tan” remains to be a lot more sought-after and believed to be “healthy-looking” too.

 Please, take a moment to read it. Maybe you too have friends, nieces, daughters who love getting sun tanned or sunbed tanned. It is just one more article with expert opinions but it is one more chance for us to give it all a second thought.

* the "Carrot Girl" drawing was done by my daughter :))

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Sunbeds as lethal as cigarettes: Experts class tanning with smoking and asbestos as top cancer risks

High risk: Ultra-violet radiation could trigger cancer according to scientists


Sunbeds are as great a cancer threat as cigarettes, global health chiefs have declared.

The dangers of ‘binge tanning’ are so significant that sunbeds have been placed on the World Health Organisation’s list of the most cancer-causing substances and habits, alongside arsenic and asbestos.

Before this, sunbeds and sunlamps had been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic’, placing them one rung below the most dangerous products.

After reviewing the latest evidence, WHO scientists decided there was no doubt that ultra-violet radiation could trigger the disease.

This means that sunbathing is also classified as high risk. But the intensity of the UV light emitted by sunbeds means a 20-minute visit to some booths is the equivalent to spending an entire day on the beach.

The data will be made available to the Government, including the Department of Health which is facing increasing pressure to clamp down on sunbed use.

Critics say the Government has so far failed to take any meaningful action to regulate the hundreds of tanning salons around UK.

An estimated three million Britons regularly use sunbeds, with children as young as 11 using the equipment to achieve tans like those of celebrity idols.

Government guidelines advise against use by youngsters but many sunbeds are in unstaffed, coin-operated booths, meaning there is no screening of customers.

Sunbeds are also increasingly powerful, with the UV output from modern machines ten to 15 times more intense than the midday sun on a Mediterranean beach.

Announcing the reclassification in the Lancet Oncology medical journal, the experts warned that the use of sunbeds and lamps was widespread in many developed countries, especially among young women. The alert comes amid concern about soaring rates of the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Sunbed use is partly blamed for the number of cases of malignant melanoma more than doubling in just 20 years. Some 9,417 men and women in England developed the disease between 1985 and 1987. But by 2004-2006, the figure had risen to 24,356.

Research analysed by the WHO included a large-scale review which concluded that using sunbeds before the age of 30 raises the odds of skin cancer by 75 per cent. Some of the studies also flagged up a convincing link between sunbeds and eye cancer.

Dr Beatrice Secretan, of the WHO'S International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), described the reclassification as ‘significant’. She said: ‘It means sunbeds are now up there with such things as cigarettes and alcohol as the most dangerous products to use when it comes to developing cancer.
‘What we do now is send this advice to the various regulatory bodies around the world. We hope our message will get across to the owners of these machines as well as the users.’

Cancer Research UK said the reclassification reinforced its call for sunbed use to be regulated by law.

Jessica Harris, the charity’s health information officer, said: ‘The link between sunbeds and skin cancer has been convincingly shown in a number of scientific studies now and so we are very pleased that IARC have upgraded sunbeds to the highest risk category. This backs up Cancer Research UK’s advice to avoid sunbeds completely for cosmetic purposes. They have no health benefits and we know that they increase the risk of cancer.

‘Given the dangers of sunbeds, we want the Government to act now to ban under 18s from using sunbeds, close salons that aren’t supervised by trained staff and ensure information about the risks of using sunbeds is given to all customers.’

Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: ‘It is high time that steps were taken to regulate the industry, to prevent children using sunbeds, and to ensure that sunbeds are subject to health warnings like other known carcinogens.

‘At the moment, many salons are free to advertise somewhat spurious health “benefits” of using  sunbeds, but offer no advice on health risks.

‘Hopefully, categorising sunbeds as a known carcinogen will prompt the Government to introduce compulsory health warnings on tanning beds.

‘Recent research shows that many sunbeds are not maintained, emit worryingly high levels of UV, and are not subject to any safety checks.’ But the Sunbed Association, the industry body, said there was ‘no proven link between the responsible use of sunbeds and skin cancer’.

Chief executive Kathy Banks said: ‘The relationship between UV exposure and an increased risk of developing skin cancer is only likely to arise where over-exposure, in other words burning, has taken place.

‘Research has shown that more than 80 per cent of sunbed users are very knowledgeable about the risks associated with over-exposure to UV, and the majority of sunbed users take 20 or fewer sessions a year.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the WHO data would be considered alongside a report from radiation advisers at the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment, or COMARE.

He said: ‘Sunbeds can be dangerous – we must ensure that people who use them do so safely. If necessary we will look at new laws to protect young people. We commissioned the report from COMARE to give us a better understanding of the issues around sun beds.’


You can read the whole article at DailyMail online (author Fiona Macrae; published July 29, 2009)