Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 11:02 UK

Women's 'binge tan' cancer risk

Woman on a sunbed
UV rays in sunbeds can be up to 10 times stronger than the sun

A woman in her 20s is diagnosed with the most serious form of skin cancer almost every day, experts warn.

Cancer Research UK says around 340 women aged 20-29 were diagnosed with potentially deadly malignant melanoma in the UK in 2005, up from 220 in 2003.

It said overusing sunbeds and "binge holiday tanning" had led to it being the most common cancer in young women.

Experts said young skin was particularly delicate and easily damaged by the sun and sunbeds.

Around 50 women under the age of 40 in the UK die from melanoma each year.

Deaths among all ages accounting for around 1,800 each year.

The fashion for tanned skin is prompting young women to put their health at risk in a bid to look bronzed
Nina Goad, British Association of Dermatologists

For women in their 30s, deadly skin cancer is now the third most common cancer after that of the breast and cervix.

Cancer Research UK said people of all ages should stay away from sunbeds and use a high factor sun lotion in the sun.

Experts warn these malignant melanoma rates are set to rise by the year 2024.

Cancer Research UK says malignant melanoma is then likely to be the fourth most common cancer for men and women of all ages and cases will rise from around 9,000 each year to more than 15,500.

Cell damage

Caroline Cerny, of Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign, said: "Spending time on sunbeds is just as dangerous as staying out too long in sun. Sunbeds don't offer a safe way to tan.

"The intensity of UV rays in some sunbeds can be more than 10 times stronger than the midday sun.

"Excessive exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster.

"But, importantly, if people take care not to burn in the sun and don't use sunbeds, the majority of malignant melanoma could be prevented."

Jenna Gurney
Jenna Gurney was just 21 when she discovered she had a malignant melanoma.
"I had this mole on my stomach and it just looked a little bit different and a bit flaky.
"I went to my GP and he advised I had it removed. I was later told it was a malignant melanoma."
Doctors also tested Jenna's lymph nodes, but luckily the cancer had not spread.
"On average I used a sunbed twice a week. I wanted a tan all year round. It was just what we did. All my friends did it."
Jenna, who is 28 now, says she uses false tan if she wants to look brown.
"My message to young girls is 'don't use sunbeds at all, and stay safe in the sun - use your suncream."

A survey of 4,000 people carried out last year by the charity found one in three women has used a sunbed at some point, with 80% first using one when they were under the age of 35.

Other data has shown that women who use sunbeds under the age of 35 can increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

Another survey found that 9% of 11- to 17-year-old girls have used a sunbed.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "It is extremely worrying to see that so many young girls are using sunbeds. Young skin is delicate and so easily damaged by the sun.

"Damage from UV builds up over time. Every time young people use a sunbed they are harming their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer."

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "The fashion for tanned skin is prompting young women to put their health at risk in a bid to look bronzed.

"Sunbeds are not a safe alternative to sunbathing, and the fact that children can easily access them is a worry.

"That's why we want to see a ban on coin-operated sunbeds and a ban on sunbeds for under 18s."

But Kathy Banks, chief executive of The Sunbed Association said: "The fact is the jury is out on the relationship between UV exposure and malignant melanoma."

She added the association wanted to see all sunbeds in the UK comply with EU rules to reduce the risk of people deliberately or inadvertently over-exposing themselves on a sunbed. The measures have so far only been partially introduced.

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