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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK


Minister urges sunbed clampdown

Some experts believe sunbeds are a health hazard

Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell will ask the sunbed industry to clampdown on young people using their equipment.

Ms Jowell's move is part of a campaign that she is launching on Wednesday to cut rates of skin cancer.

The minister has also pledged to negotiate with manufacturers to lower the price of family sunscreen creams.

Sun Awareness Week will feature local events across the country starting on May 31.

[ image: Tessa Jowell aims to cut skin cancer rates]
Tessa Jowell aims to cut skin cancer rates
Ms Jowell said: "The focus of Sun Awareness Week is to protect those vulnerable to sun damage - particularly children and teenagers.

"I am especially concerned about the risks of skin cancer from UV rays from sunbeds and tanning equipment.

"People increase their risk of skin cancer by using sunbeds and tanning equipment.

"I will therefore be meeting representatives of the sunbed industry to urge them to clamp down on young people using their sunbeds."

Sunbed operators will be asked to follow Health Education Authority (HEA) guidelines which recommend that nobody under the age of 16 should be allowed to use a sunbed.

Operators will also be asked to display warnings about the dangers of sunbeds, and to warn people at risk that they may be placing their health in peril by trying to get an artificial tan.

Groups at risk include: people with fair and sensitive skin, those with lots of freckles and red hair and those with lots of moles.

A recent study showed that people who use a sunbed ten times or more a year increase their risk of malignant melanoma - a deadly form of skin cancer - by 700%.

The main messages of Sun Awareness Week will be:

  • Sunburn in childhood increases the likelihood of skin cancer in later life
  • Too much sun causes wrinkles
  • When in the sun wear a high factor suncream and stay in the shade when the sun is most powerful
  • Wear clothes that give you good protection from sunburn

As part of the campaign the HEA is publishing guidance for schools on the use of sunscreens to protect children.

Retailers will also be encouraged to display the HEA Sun Safety Code in shops and on products.

Major problem

Stephen Woodward, HEA skin cancer programme manager, said despite the fact that skin cancer was "utterly avoidable" malignant melanomas killed 170 people aged between 15 and 44 in England and Wales last year.

In total, there are 40,000 new cases of skin cancer every year.

Mr Woodward said: "We are talking about a serious source of preventable, premature deaths here.

"Deaths from skin cancer are utterly avoidable, you just hae to reduce your exposure to ultraviolet light by taking protection when you are out in the sun, either by wearing protective clothing or using suncreams."

The government has made reducing rates of cancer a key area of its public health strategy.

The target set out at the Prime Minister's cancer seminar earlier this month is to reduce deaths from cancer among under 75s by 20% over the next 10 years.

  • The Use of Sunscreens in Schools: A Good Practice Guide, is available from HEA Customer Service, PO Box 269, Abingdon, Oxford. OX14 4YN. Tel: 01235 465 565. Fax: 01235 465 556.

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