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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Young 'tanorexics' risking cancer
Teenage girls sporting tans
A tan is an important fashion statement to many teenagers
Teenagers throughout Britain are threatening their health through an addiction to sunbeds, experts have warned.

The term "tanorexia" has been coined by doctors alarmed at the spiralling numbers of youngsters putting themselves at risk of skin cancer as they chase the perfect skin colour.

The British Medical Association and Cancer Research UK have called for a ban on under-16s using tanning salons.

Meanwhile, a BBC investigation has revealed seven out of 10 salons randomly picked in Newcastle allowed a 14-year-old girl to book a sunbed session, shunning trade association advice not to admit under 16s.

100 deaths a year

Carrying out the test for the Real Story programme, schoolgirl Agnes Sharpe said staff at the outlets which did not reject her made no mention of her age.

"In one of them I did fill in a form which had my date of birth on it but they didn't say anything about it," she tells the programme.

"It was obvious it was there."

A study by Newcastle University recently found that about 100 people a year die in the UK as a direct result of sunbed use, with many suffering long term damage in their youth.

The over-exposure of the skin to ultra-violet light can lead to cancer.

Hayley Barrow
Hayley Barrow says her mother cannot stop her from using sunbeds
Real Story features a 13-year-old girl from Liverpool, identified as a blackspot for tanorexics, who has been visiting tanning parlours up to five times a week for the past year.

Hayley Barrow, whose grandmother has skin cancer, explained: "If I haven't been on one [a sunbed] for one day I feel white, I feel transparent."

European guidelines suggest that even adults should not use sunbeds more than once a week.

Hayley's mother, Anne, said her daughter's sunbed craze was a form of illness which was proving unstoppable.

Posh 'n' Becks syndrome

Newcastle General Hospital's Professor Brian Diffey said: "That young girl is destined to develop skin cancer and along with that by the time she's in her 50s she'll have a wrinkly, leathery skin looking like a 70 or 80-year-old."

He likened irresponsible sunbed operators to shopkeepers selling cigarettes to the under 16s.

Real story journalists interviewing youngsters at a venue in Birkenhead, Merseyside heard that young boys were also developing an adiiction to tanning.

"They call it the Posh and Becks syndrome," said Andy Carr, organiser of the Elite Teens disco.

They want the tans, they want the clothes, they want the money."

The Sunbed Association, whose members are in the minority, has no legal powers to enforce its under 16s rule.

Spokeswoman Kathy Banks said: "All we can hope for is that membership expands so we can represent a far bigger proportion of the tanning outlets and then regulate them in the absence of government regulation."

Real Story: BBC One, Monday 24 May 2004, 1930 BST and on the Real Story website.



BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Hayley is 13 and uses a sunbed 4 or 5 times a week"



SEE ALSO:
Spread of skin cancer predicted
10 Feb 04 |  Health
Sun 'protects against cancer'
21 Nov 03 |  Health
Skin cancers
17 Mar 00 |  C-D


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