Girls flouting sunbed laws to look like 'celebrities'
Published 30/01/2013 | 10:30
Teenage girls are regularly flouting the law to use sunbeds to make them feel like "celebrities on the red carpet", researchers have found.
They conducted focus groups with 15 to 18-year-olds, who told them visiting sunbed salons made them feel “healthier” and “more confident”.
The girls said they knew about the increased risk of skin cancer, but replied they would “deal with it” when they turned 30.
In 2011 it became illegal in England and Wales for those under 18 to use sunbeds.
The previous year research was published showing 250,000 children in England aged 11 to 17 were regularly using tanning salons. In some areas, half of 15 to 17-year-olds were using them.
Today’s research, published in the Journal of Public Health, found girls flouted the rules to gain the respect of friends and to make themselves feel good.
Describing why she used sunbeds, one said: “Celebrities and stuff …on the red carpet they’ve got the nice glow and like a tan, and so we kind of look to them and they look pretty.”
Another said: “You feel more healthy don’t you?”
One said she and her friends knew how bad it was “but we all still go on them”.
“We’ll all realise it when we’re 30,” she added.
The study also found evidence tanning salons were failing to check users were 18 or over.
Catherine Thomson from Cancer Research UK, one of the study authors, said: “Introducing the legislation banning sunbed use by under 18s was vital to protect younger people from the harmful effects of UV.
"But proper supervision in salons is essential to combat the determination of teenagers to get round laws that are there for their own protection."
The findings are published just over a week before Cancer Research UK launches its R UV UGLY? campaign for the second time in England.
As part of the campaign, people will be offered free cosmetic skin scans at skin clinics across the country.
The technology will be used to highlight hidden cosmetic damage beneath the skin's surface, such as pigmentation and premature wrinkles, caused by overexposure to UV both from sunbeds and the sun.
Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This study shows that we need to persuade teenagers that damaging their health really isn't justified by the promise of a tan.
“Sunbeds aren't harmless and research has showed that using them for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 59 per cent."
But tanning salons have questioned the association between sunbed use and the risk of melanoma - the type of skin cancer that causes most deaths - citing a study by researchers in Leeds who found no evidence of a link.
By Stephen Adams, Telegraph.co.uk