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Child risk from sunbeds warning

Friday November 13th, 2009

Rates of sunbed use among children are surprisingly high, campaigners warned today.

More than a quarter of a million children aged 11 to 17 use sunbeds, say Dr Catherine Thomson of Cancer Research UK and Professor Chris Twelves of St James's University Hospital in Leeds, UK.

In a letter on the website of the British Medical Journal, they write that sunbeds raise serious issues. "A recent meta-analysis showed sunbed use before the age of 35 was associated with an increased relative risk of 75 per cent for developing malignant melanoma," they report.

Recent surveys by Cancer Research UK of over 9,000 children in England found that six per cent of 11 to 17 year olds had used a sunbed. It was more common among older children and girls, in the north, and among deprived communities. Over a quarter of those who used sunbeds did so at least once a month.

Sunbed use varied nationally, and reached 51 per cent for 15 to 17 year old girls in Liverpool.

"Supervision of sunbed use was poor," say the authors. Many children used sunbeds at home, and around a quarter were not supervision at tanning/beauty salons or gym/leisure centres.

This rate of sunbed use would put over 250,000 children at increased risk of developing malignant melanoma, the authors calculate. "National legislation to limit access to sunbed salons to those over 18, and close down unsupervised or coin operated salons, is required to stop more children being put at unnecessary risk of developing skin cancer," they conclude.

Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK said: "Allowing children to be regularly exposed to harmful radiation from sunbeds is irresponsible. We are calling on the government to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency."

Thomson, C. S. and Twelves, C. Legislation is needed to stop children using sunbeds. The British Medical Journal, 2009;339:b4643.

Tags: Cancer | Child Health | Fitness | General Health | UK News

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