The risk of skin cancer from tanning beds is two times higher than spending the same length of time in the Mediterranean midday summer sun.

The finding came from a new study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Dundee, Scotland, and published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

The scientists examined 400 tanning beds in the UK and measured their levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation was emitted at levels above British and EU guidelines in nine out of ten beds.

The average power of the tanning beds’ radiation was almost two times the suggested limit.

The risk of getting skin cancer from using these tanning beds was also analyzed, and then compared with the risk from the Mediterranean sun at about noontime in the summer, in the Cancer Research UK report.

The tanning beds that were examined had an average skin cancer risk two times higher than the risk after being in the Mediterranean summer sun at noontime for the same length of time.

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Tanning bed usage has been rising despite warnings

The team discovered that the risk of skin cancer was 6 times higher from one of the tanning beds, compared to direct natural sunlight exposure.

Leading researcher Professor Harry Moseley, consultant medical physicist at University of Dundee, explained:

“The development of high-power sunlamps, along with clear failures of the sunbed industry to regulate themselves effectively, is putting young people at an even greater risk of skin cancer than we previously thought.”

The authors hope that this research will make people more aware of the consequences of using a tanning bed and think twice about how much radiation they could be exposing their skin to.

Unfortunately, research has demonstrated that despite warnings, tanning bed usage is still on the rise.

If people do not start to protect their skin better, there will continue to be an increase in the number of malignant melanoma cases in England, the researchers pointed out.

Malignant melanoma is the most threatening type of skin cancer. Prior research confirmed a link between tanning bed usage and an greater risk for 4 types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

“It’s worrying to see that so many sunbeds (tanning beds) in England are not meeting the safety standards. This strengthens our advice that using a sunbed just isn’t worth it,” said Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK.

Ebo explained, “Research has already shown that using sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of malignant melanoma by 87 per cent. They’re not going to do you any good – the best case scenario is that they’ll age and damage your skin; the worst case scenario is a cancer diagnosis and potentially death.”

The power of UV radiation from tanning beds from areas that were required to have licenses was no different than areas that did not need licenses.

The recommendation set by Britain and Europe was made in 2003. and set a UV radiation limit for tanning beds.

The research indicates that local authorities need to work harder to ensure that recommendations are being met by tanning salons.

Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, concluded:

“Product safety standards are there to protect the public and the government needs to step up its regulation of the industry.

England is sadly trailing behind the rest of the UK in this matter. We need proper legislation, covering issues like safety of equipment and health warnings for clients and enforceable through inspections of premises.”

Written by Sarah Glynn