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Wednesday, 3 March, 1999, 08:19 GMT
Warning over sunbeds
Sunbeds can pose a risk to health
Using sunbeds for cosmetic purposes is a bad idea, according to the Health Education Authority (HEA).

The HEA launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the risks of using sunbeds following a survey which reveals that 8% of the population have used them in the last year.

The campaign is part of a general push to educate the public about skin cancer.

The survey showed that sunbed use is most common in the 16-24 year-old age group. About 800,000 young people - 15% of the total - had at least one sunbed session in the last year.

The HEA is concerned that the public is unaware that the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) emitted by a sunbed can be as damaging as the sun's rays and has been linked to skin cancer.

Other possible adverse effects of tanning using a sunbed include:

  • Sunburned skin - this is much more common if the user has been taking a prescribed medication that reacts adversely with the sunbed's rays;
  • Frequent skin dryness and itching;
  • Bumpy, itchy rash;
  • Eye irritation or conjunctivitis.

Possible long-term health effects include skin fragility and blistering and skin cancer.

There is also an increased risk of cataracts.

Unknown risk

Sunbathing can be dangerous
Professor John Hawk, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital, said: "Skin cancers can take 20 years to develop and the sunbed industry is still relatively young.

"There are already cases of early skin cancer in people who have frequently used sunbeds.

"My concern is that in the next few years we will see a substantial increase in skin cancers and ageing in people who are regularly using sunbeds."

He believes sunbeds should be banned.

Surveys from around the world show that many people are not aware of their increased risk of skin cancer from sunbeds.

And although 90 per cent of the population are aware of the risks associated with sunbathing three-quarters of young women still actively seek a suntan every year.

The HEA is targeting the following high risk groups in its skin cancer awareness drive:

  • Young women;
  • Young men;
  • Outdoor workers;
  • Parents;
  • Children aged six to 12.

Skin Cancer Campaign Manager Christopher New said: "We are targeting high risk groups with a much more hard hitting campaign than in recent years.

"We know that young men and women are aware of the dangers of the sun but still regard a suntan as attractive and it makes them feel healthier."

The campaign will contrast glamorous images of suntans with images of skin cancer and disfigurement.

More than 40,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in the UK and the rates are currently doubling every 10 years.

The public will be urged to:

  • Cover up and wear a hat;
  • Wear a high factor sunscreen on exposed skin;
  • Shift to the shade around midday;
  • Take special care of babies and children.
Professor John Hawk: "You only get a tan if you damage your skin"
See also:

27 May 98 | Medical notes
Skin cancer
28 May 98 | Latest News
Skin cancer threat to children
14 Jul 98 | Health
Keep your shirt on
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