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Sunbeds pose greater cancer risk

Last updated 16:42 04/10/2012

JESS LEE

KELLY SCHICKER / Waikato Times

BAD PRACTISE: People with fair skin should never use a sunbed because of the high risk of melanoma.

KELLY SCHICKER / Waikato Times

Sunbed users are not only putting themselves at risk of developing melanoma, but also other forms of skin cancer, a study reveals.

The study, published in the online British Medical Journal, found that indoor tanning significantly increases the risks of developing squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell carcinoma, particularly among those exposed at a young age.

The University of California researchers said cases of non-melanoma skin cancer had increased dramatically over the last few decades.

Indoor tanning was estimated to account for more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the US alone.

Sunbed users have a 67 per cent higher risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer and a 29 per cent increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma compared with non-users, according to the study.

Although not as lethal as melanoma, they affected a vast number of people worldwide and are a substantial financial burden to healthcare systems, the researchers said.

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"We hope that these findings can support public health campaigns and motivate increased regulation to reduce exposure to this carcinogen, especially during early life."

A report for the Cancer Society, conducted by health economist Des O'Dea, found that non-melanoma related health-care and loss of production cost New Zealand $58.1 million in 2006.

Cancer Society national health promotion manager Dr Jan Pearson said while non-melanoma skin cancers accounted for the majority of skin cancers in New Zealand, they were less well-known.

"It's a huge problem that flies under the radar."

Tougher indoor tanning regulations would be a good first step towards reducing the number of people developing skin cancer, she said.

"Ideally it would be great if they were banned but we're realistic."

Experts from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research said the study provided more convincing evidence that exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation was a cause of the three main skin cancers.

"Young people in particular should be made aware that the use of sunbeds for short-term cosmetic tanning carries the long-term price of an increased risk of skin cancer."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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