90% of sunbeds emitting unsafe radiation levels

UP to 90% of sunbeds emit more than the safe level of UV radiation, vastly increasing the risk of skin cancer in those using them, an EU study has found.

The findings support a demand by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) for legislation to regulate sunbed usage, and in the long term to ban them altogether.

Using sunbeds to induce a tan is even more dangerous for younger people, and the risk of getting cancer is increased by 75% for those under 30 years of age, according to the ICS.

Studies show an increasing number of those under 18 are using them.

But the EU survey found that in 10 member states – which did not include Ireland – people who use sunbeds are not aware of, and are not told by staff, of the risks from the UV radiation, and especially of getting burned.

More worringly, of more than 500 sunbeds in over 300 locations tested last year, one in seven had higher UV radiation emissions than are allowed or considered to be safe.

In several countries they found as many as 90% of them emitted higher levels of radiation than considered to be safe, while in others between 10% and 20% exceeded the limit.

People under 18 years are also being allowed to use the service, despite recommendations that they should not do so.

As a result of the research, the European Commission is telling countries that they should review their safety standards and inspect tanning studios more regularly.

They are also helping finance a project to develop training, a code of good conduct for tanning studios, and information for consumers.

Generally consumers should follow the advice designed for their skin type when using sun beds, should always use eye protection and not use them until they are at least 18 years of age.

People with known risk factors for skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma, should not use UVR tanning devices, especially anybody with freckles, moles or a family history of melanoma.

There were over 7,000 cases of skin cancer in 2007 according to the National Cancer Registry. The incidence has been rising rapidly and has a high mortality rate if not detected and treated early.

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