Jan 30, 2007
The skin cancer risk to people who use sunbeds to get a tan is increasing as stronger ultra-violet lamps are used, a health scientist has warned.
The risk is up to three times greater than it was 10 years ago, said Dr Harry Moseley of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.
A survey by the hospital found 83% of the beds tested had outputs higher than the maximum in UK and EU standards.
The Sunbed Association rejected the claim, saying that as lamps got stronger, session times were shortened.
The survey, carried out by Ninewells with environmental health departments in Dundee and Perth and Kinross, tested 133 sunbeds in 50 premises, including tanning studios, sports centres, hotels and hairdressers.
Since a similar survey in 1997, say the authors, there has been a 130% rise in the number of unregulated privately-operated sunbeds, and that there were now more sunbeds with high-power lamps.
Dr Mosley, who is presenting his findings in a paper to the Society for Radiological Protection, also reported that many sunbeds were unsupervised and coin-operated, with no restriction on age or number of sessions.
The team had taken data on the strength of the UV radiation from each sunbed, and compared the average readings with natural sunlight, he said.
In the last survey some years ago, the radiation from the average sunbed was equivalent to British sun; now, it was like Mediterranean sun, he added.
He called for the regulation of commercial sunbeds, and better public education on the risks. Those who wanted to get a tan in this way were free to do so, he said, "but they should know what they're getting into."
Dermatological experts had recommended that people restrict their sunbed sessions to 20 a year, and "that would seem sensible", he said.
Cancer Research UK commented that people under 18 should never use sunbeds, and unstaffed coin-operated sunbed premises should be closed down.
Kathy Banks, Chief Executive of the Sunbed Association representing over 1,500 operators, said "Where tubes with greater UV output are used, the sunbed session length is reduced accordingly, which means the same amount of UV dosage is received by the sunbed user."
She went on: "Over the last 10 years, the sunbed industry has actually responded to the advice of the scientific and medical profession by adjusting the output of the tubes to simulate sunshine.
"Now the same professions are claiming this adjustment is increasing the risk of skin cancer."
"TSA member operators must comply with our Code of Practice which includes the requirement of sunbeds to be compliant to British and European standards.
"We do share the concerns about facilities which operate outside of our Code of Practice, including unstaffed salons."
These establishments were open to use by the under-16s and people with fair skin - "who should neither sunbathe nor use a sunbed," she added.
Dr Moseley told the BBC News Website that he accepted sessions should have got shorter but asked: "Do we know that people are doing that?"