Page last updated at 00:13 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 01:13 UK

Young face ban on using sunbeds

Sunbed use is linked to a raised risk of skin cancer

People aged under 18 could be banned from using sunbeds in England under proposals from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE also wants to see tanning salons fully staffed at all times.

The proposals come as a survey by Which? magazine estimates that 170,000 under-16s in the UK have used a sunbed.

The Sunbed Association (TSA) supports a ban on under-16s, but argues there is no scientific evidence for a ban on young people aged 17 or 18.

The fact that seems to be continuously overlooked is that there is no proven link between the responsible use of sunbeds and skin cancer
Kathy Banks
The Sunbed Association

The Department of Health asked the HSE to review its guidance on the use of sunbeds as part of its 2007 Cancer Reform Strategy, aimed at preventing skin cancer.

The HSE's proposals will now go through a consultation process.

More than 100 deaths from skin cancer every year in the UK are thought to be linked to the use of sunbeds.

According to the Department of Health, skin cancer rates are estimated to triple over the next 20 to 30 years.

Recent research has shown that under-35s could be 75% more likely to develop malignant melanoma if they use sunbeds.

Both the World Health Organisation and the European Union have recommended that under-18s should never use sunbeds.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health stressed that the guidance could lead to tighter regulations.

This could lead to a ban on the use of sunbeds among under 18s, she said.

Dr Colin Holden, president of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "We are extremely encouraged by this first step in limiting sunbed use.

"Banning sunbeds for under-18s is one of the measures we have been lobbying for, in addition to banning unsupervised, coin-operated sunbeds and making it compulsory to display information about the health risks at all tanning parlours."


For its survey, Which? magazine surveyed 1,000 children aged eight to 15, and found around 3% had used a sunbed.

It also sent undercover researchers into 10 salons, and found that in every case they were able to book a sunbed appointment for a friend with pale skin - even though this group is recommended not to use sunbeds at all, as they are particularly vulnerable to skin damage.

Neil Fowler, editor of Which?, said: "Despite the dangers of sunbed use, a shocking number of children told us that they have used one.

"Without regulation, the industry needs to be responsible about protecting those most at risk, but staff at the salons we visited failed to give adequate health warnings."

Rebecca Russell, of Cancer Research UK, said: "It's extremely shocking to learn that children as young as eight are using sunbeds."

The TSA said its code of practice stressed that salons should not allow under-16s or people with skin type one (the palest, most vulnerable skin) to use sunbeds under any circumstances.

But it was not aware of any medical or scientific evidence to support a ban on all under-18s.

Kathy Banks, TSA chief executive, said: "Whilst there may be a case for introducing standards to ensure that all tanning facilities are operating to good practice, the effect this may have on reducing the incidence of skin cancer is likely to be minimal.

"This is because our greatest source of UV exposure is from the sun and it is essential that due consideration be given to peoples' outdoor exposure habits if there is to be any positive impact on skin cancer prevention.

"The fact that seems to be continuously overlooked is that there is no proven link between the responsible use of sunbeds and skin cancer."

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