Call for tighter sunbed regulations
Researchers have called for tighter regulations around the use of sunbeds after a study found that indoor tanning significantly increases the risk of skin cancer - particularly in younger users.
While sunbed use is already associated with malignant melanoma - the most dangerous type of skin cancer - academics have also linked indoor tanning to non-melanoma skin cancers.
Sunbed users have a 67% higher risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer and a 29% increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma compared with non users, according to the study which has been published on bmj.com.
The researchers, from the University of California in San Francisco, said sunbed users account for 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer every year in the US.
"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," the authors wrote. "We hope that these findings can support public health campaigns and motivate increased regulation to reduce exposure to this carcinogen, especially during early life."
In an accompanying editorial, researchers from the Population Health Department in Australia said young people in particular should be made aware of the dangers of sunbed use. They said: "The known risks of skin cancer from indoor tanning currently outweigh its potential benefits.
"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."
Nina Goad, spokeswoman for the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "This latest research, showing a link between sunbeds and the other, more common types of skin cancer, provides yet more reason to enforce stronger regulation of the industry. In particular, we need a total ban on coin-operated sunbeds as we know that these can be easily accessed by children.
"Likewise, we need to make sure that sunbed users are fully informed of all the risks as sadly this is not always the case. A UK-wide licensing system would make regulation of the industry more achievable."