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Tanning Bed Ban for Teens in Britain


Legislators in Britain are attempting to ban the use of tanning beds for teens, citing evidence that use of the tanning devices can lead to skin cancer in later years. A bill is being put forward that would also give ministers regulatory-making powers to shut down unstaffed tanning salons and other safeguard measures.

Tanning bed use among the young in Britain is widespread. According to a report by Cancer Research UK in November 2009, 6 percent of children aged 11 to 17 years in England said they had used a tanning bed. However, there is significant variation depending on the area of the country. In a study of six British cities, use of tanning beds among 11- to 17-year-olds was 20 percent in Liverpool and 18 percent in Sunderland.

Some legislators have been campaigning for years for the government to take action against tanning bed use among teens. Health Secretary Andy Burnham noted in the Guardian that “Sunbeds increase your risk of getting skin cancer. It is far too easy for young people to use sunbeds and I am determined to take action to protect them. I fully support this bill.” The bill was introduced by MP Julie Morgan.

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The British government’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) recently produced a report in which it found that use of tanning beds was responsible for 100 deaths and 370 new cases of malignant skin cancer a year in the United Kingdom. COMARE also noted that people younger than 20 who had been exposed to high doses of radiation from tanning beds were more likely to develop skin cancer later in life. Use of tanning beds is also associated with aging skin, eye damage, and burns.

The most significant data comes from an analysis of about 20 studies in which the authors concluded the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people begin using tanning beds before age 30. The international research, which was published online in Lancet Oncology in August 2009, classified tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation as definite causes of cancer.

Although the proposed bill would prohibit teens younger than 18 from using tanning beds, it does not include a provision to ban unstaffed, coin-operated tanning booths, a move that has been passed in neighboring Scotland. Advocates of the tanning bed ban say that unstaffed booths will allow teens younger than 18 to use the tanning beds. The British Association of Dermatologists agrees and has called for a ban on coin-operated tanning beds, as well as a requirement that all salons be licensed and regulated. In the United States, teens can readily use tanning beds, with few states having any significant restrictions.

El Ghissassi F et al. The Lancet Oncology 2009 Aug; 10(8): 751-52
Guardian, Jan. 13, 2010