Cancer Council Australia has released alarming statistics showing that over 290,000 Australians have been exposed to UV radiation in the past year due to solarium use.
Chair of the National Sun Survey Research Committee Professor David Hill said, "A solarium can emit UV radiation that is five times as strong as the midday summer sun."
"Subjecting skin to the excessive amounts of UV radiation that solariums emit can be dangerous. It is important that the public understand that using solariums will increase exposure to UV radiation and risk of skin cancer."
The research found the highest users of solariums were females aged 25 - 44 years.
"It may be that more women in the 25-44 age group are working indoors and so have less opportunity to tan in the sun. They may also have more money available for solarium use than younger women"
"The marketing of the industry is targeted directly at the female market so the results from the research are not surprising." Professor Hill said.
Recent studies have shown that there has been an explosion in the number of solariums in NSW and Victoria over the past ten years.
A voluntary code, the Australian and New Zealand Standard on Solaria for Cosmetic Purposes, is used to regulate the industry. Research released recently in Victoria showed that many of the regulations were not being met. This included solariums that were unsupervised, solariums that were providing access without written parental consent to clients under the age of 18 and access to fair skin clients who will never tan.
Chair of the National Skin Committee for the Cancer Council Australia, Craig Sinclair said, "We are particularly concerned about unsupervised solariums that are coin operated or self serve, and those found in Health and Fitness centres without trained staff. These solariums provide very easy access with little or no prior information or guidance for customers."
"The Cancer Councils across Australia are working to increase the awareness of the dangers of solariums and to increase the regulatory restrictions on the industry, particularly in the area of unsupervised solariums and restricting access to minors," Mr Sinclair said.
The Australasian College of Dermatologists spokesperson Dr Ian Hamann said "We have the world's worst skin cancer rates and if we do nothing to minimise the risk of excessive UV exposure, the incidence of skin cancer will continue to rise."
"There is recent research suggesting a link between solarium use and the development of melanoma. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers affecting young adults and can be life threatening. There is no safe way to tan the skin using either natural or artificial UV light."
"Skin cancer is a preventable disease and dermatologists are seeing these cancers in otherwise healthy adults in their twenties and thirties. " Dr Hamann said.
The solarium data is a part of the National Sun Survey, which reveals the sun-related behaviours of more than 5000 Australian adults, aged 18 to 69 during peak UV times on summer weekends in 2003-04. The research was funded by the Cancer Councils across Australia and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.