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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Europe issues warning on sunbeds
Consumer advice is to be issued in all official EU languages
The European Commission has issued further warnings to young people and those with fair skin to avoid sunbeds because of the risk of skin cancer.

It is to ask consumer bodies and member states in the EU to issue health advice to ensure people are aware of the risk.

The commission also said industry should ensure sunbeds, tanning lamps and other ultraviolet radiation devices carried adequate warnings.

And it called for maximum levels of UV radiation to be set.

I am concerned that indiscriminate use of these tanning devices for cosmetic purposes could lead to an increased incidence of skin-cancers
Markos Kyprianou, EU Public Health Commissioner

There are around 8,000 new cases of malignant melanoma skin cancer each year in the UK. It is the least common but most serious type of skin cancer. Around 1,800 people die.

A Newcastle University expert warned in 2003 that around 100 of the deaths each year might be linked to sunbed use.

The most at risk are people with freckles, moles, a family history of melanoma and the young.

Last month Ireland said it would ban the use of sunbeds by people aged 15 and younger as part of a new plan to reduce skin cancer rates.

And authorities in Nordic nations last year advised against the use of sunbeds, particularly for young people.

Legislation considered

EU Public Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "We need to act rapidly in order to raise public awareness of the risks associated with sunbeds.

"I am concerned that indiscriminate use of these tanning devices for cosmetic purposes could lead to an increased incidence of skin-cancers."

He said the EU would consider legislating a limit to the radiation power of these devices and stricter labelling.

The executive will also ask agencies that certify products to introduce UV radiation limits.

Sunbeds used in tanning salons use the more powerful UV-B type of radiation.

The sun is the main source of ultraviolet radiation, but some people get a substantial exposure from sunbeds.

Young at risk

The commission's report said: "Tanning devices were not in widespread use before the 1990s. The full health effects of their use are not yet known.

"It will take several years before the real picture of the role of the ultraviolet radiation tanning devices in inducing skin cancer becomes fully apparent. This is due to the long induction period of the cancer."

It said that, on the available evidence, the use of UVR tanning devices to achieve and maintain cosmetic tanning is likely to increase the risk of malignant skin cancer.

The report said the risk appeared to be particularly high when using sunbeds at a young age.

"Thus UVR tanning devices should not be used by individuals under the age of 18 years," the report said.

Cancer Research UK says people should not use artificial tanning devices for cosmetic purposes because they - like the sun - increase skin cancer risk.

It says a number of people should never use sunbeds including

  • Under 16s
  • People with fair or freckly skin
  • Those who burn easily or have a lot of moles
  • People with a personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Anyone using medication which increases sensitivity to UV radiation

'Tanorexic' teenager risks cancer
12 May 05 |  Merseyside

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