Dear Dr Nina: 'Is there any such thing as a safe level of sunbed use?'
Our resident GP answers your medical queries.
Q. Is there any such thing as a safe level of sunbed use?
Dr Nina answers: The World Health Organisation has classified UV rays from the sun and artificial devices as carcinogenic. The UV radiation in sunbeds damages skin and is a major risk for skin cancer. Radiation from sunbeds can in fact be more than 10 times stronger than that of a midday hot Mediterranean sun. If you have ever used a sunbed, your risk of melanoma is increased by 20pc. Those who first use a sunbed under the age of 35 have a nearly 60pc increased risk of skin cancer. Regular use under the age of 30 increases it by over 75pc.
The increased use of sunbeds in younger women means that melanoma has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common cancer occurring in this age group. A large review of the medical literature published in the Journal of Dermatology surmised that melanoma due to tanning is more common than lung cancer due to smoking.
Skin cancer can occur on all types of skin, but there are a number of notable risk factors. These include fair skin, a personal or family history of skin cancer, excessive UV exposure whether from sunlight or tanning beds, a history of blistering sunburn, especially in childhood, the presence of lots of atypical moles on the body, weakened immunity, and previous exposure to chemicals such as tar, petrol products, arsenic and soot.
Despite what some who manage to tan think, the majority of native Irish people are classified as having fair skin, which immediately puts us at a higher risk of skin cancer. It takes 20 to 30 years for skin cancer to develop, but damage is often done in childhood. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Sunbeds are not a healthy way to boost your vitamin D and a tan acquired from these does not protect your skin from damage if acquired prior to travelling abroad. The answer is simple: Do not use tanning beds, ever.