Page last updated at 09:13 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 10:13 UK

Doctors rule out 'safe tanning'

Not a good idea

There is no such thing as a safe tan, according to skin cancer experts.

Although some advice says that avoiding sunburn is crucial, researchers have concluded that any tan is risky, whether from sunshine or sunbed.

The UK and US scientists said there was solid evidence that tanning and cancer both start with DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

They called for a ban on children using sunbeds, and any publicity claiming sunbeds were a safer option.

Overexposure to UV rays, whether from sunbathing or using sunbeds, simply is not good for our skin
Caroline Cerny
Cancer Research UK

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with some estimates of more than 100,000 cases a year.

The most serious type, melanoma, can be fatal if not found and treated quickly.

It has proved harder for scientists to conclusively blame the use of sunbeds for increasing cancer risk, but evidence has now emerged, with one study suggesting the risk of melanoma increased by 75% in people who started using sunbeds under the age of 35.

The latest review, published in the journal Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research, say that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the "most avoidable" cause of skin cancer.

Dr David Fisher, president of the Society of Melanoma Research, said that getting a tan and the earliest stages of melanoma shared this common factor.

A safe tan from UV radiation was therefore, he said, impossible, regardless of the source.

"Whereas genetic and other factors undoubtedly contribute importantly to skin cancer risk, the role of UV is incontrovertible.

"Efforts to confuse the public, particularly for the purposes of economic gain by the indoor tanning industry, should be vigorously combated for the public health."

'Don't burn'

He said that more research into the level of damage caused by sunbed was now required.

The findings were backed by Caroline Cerny, from Cancer Research UK, which has been running a "SunSmart" campaign for some years.

She said: "Overexposure to UV rays, whether from sunbathing or using sunbeds, simply is not good for our skin.

"This review supports the body of evidence that UV radiation causes long-term skin damage, which could eventually lead to cancer.

"Our campaign provides advice on how to enjoy the sun safely and stresses the importance of making sure you never burn.

"We are also calling on the government to introduce legislation to regulate the sunbed industry to restrict under 18s from using sunbeds."

Singer 'aged' to show sunbed risk
19 Aug 08 |  Scotland
Sunbed cancer risk 'increasing'
30 Jan 07 |  Health
Sunbed use 'puts lives at risk'
07 Apr 08 |  Health

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