Family, friends encourage young people to use sunbeds

As the post-Christmas January blues take hold, young people are risking damage to their health and appearance by using sunbeds on the recommendation of friends and family, according to a new survey by Cancer Research UK.

The poll of almost 3000 UK adults, was commissioned by the charity's new SunSmart initiative R UV UGLY?. This poll found that of 176 sunbed users aged 18-24, 40 per cent received encouragement from friends, and 26 per cent received encouragement from a family member or partner when using a sunbed for the first time. The main reason these 18-24 year olds first used a sunbed was to improve their appearance (30 per cent chose this option).

Using a sunbed for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 75 per cent. Over the last thirty years in Britain malignant melanoma incidence rates have more than quadrupled, and the disease is the second most common form of cancer in 15 -34 year olds.

Despite this, around one in four (26 per cent) of the survey's sunbed users aged 18-24 said they weren't  bothered by the serious health warnings around sunbed use. This could be because over half the people in this age group (53 per cent) believed that tanned skin has become more fashionable.

More than 60 per cent of sunbed users in the 18-24 year old group (62 per cent) admitted they first used a sunbed when they were 18 or under.

Following new legislation introduced last year banning under-18s from using sunbeds, this would now be illegal.

Chris Lunn, SunSmart campaign manager at Cancer Research UK, said:  "It's surprising to see that two thirds (66 per cent) of young sunbed users received encouragement from a friend, family member or partner when using a sunbed for the first time, despite the long-term health risks they pose.

"By highlighting the health risks, we hope people will become more aware that using sunbeds can increase the chances of developing skin cancer, and so discourage their friends and family from using them in future.

"We may all want to improve our appearance to help alleviate the mid-winter gloom, but sunbeds aren't the answer.  As well as increasing your risk of skin cancer, you could be left with wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.  If you must have a tan, faking it is the best option."

The R UV UGLY? initiative sees Cancer Research UK team up with skin to offer free skin assessments at its 37 clinics nationwide, to raise awareness amongst Britons about the skin damage, premature ageing and health dangers of sunbed use.

Sk:n is offering exclusive 'two for none' skin assessments (usually £25 each) to encourage people to come along with a friend or family member to experience the scans for free.  The clinic will use specialist skin-scanning technology to highlight the hidden damage, such as dehydration and premature wrinkles, lurking beneath the skin's surface caused by overexposure to UV, both from sunbeds and the sun.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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