Despite warnings from The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) that sunbed users are 20% more likely to develop skin cancer and evidence linking tanning salons to a variety of other adverse health conditions such as eye damage and premature skin ageing – the scourge of sun bed use is still escalating – especially among young people.
There are currently tanning salons on almost every main street in Ireland who are responding to a high consumer demand, and these businesses are lucrative.
Disturbingly – over 20% or 28,000 of the 140,000 sunbed users in Ireland are aged between 15 and 24 and use them once a week.
According to the most recent report by the ICS, which was published in 2010 – Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. In 2010: 9,450 people were diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland, and of these 896 were diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. There were 158 deaths from skin cancer in 2011 alone.
The incidence of melanoma in Ireland has risen dramatically by an alarming 137% between 1994 and 2010.
Moreover, the incidence for all types of skin cancer has increased between 1997 and 2007 by nearly 75%.
Meanwhile, research published in 2009 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found a clear link between sunbeds and cancer. Tests revealed a 75% increase in the risk of coetaneous melanoma when people began tanning regularly before the age of 30 years.
The IARC also placed sunbeds in the highest cancer risk category and rated sunbeds to be as carcinogenic as tobacco and plutonium.
Worryingly – not only is Sunbed usage increasing – tanning devices are more powerful than even a decade ago.
As the current situation stands, any individual can set up a tanning salon. This is deeply concerning as there are no regulatory restrictions and very little safeguards on the type of equipment that can be purchased.
In 2012, The ICS carried out a secret shopper survey and found that seven out of seven tanning shops would let a fair-skinned child use a sunbed without any warning or advice.
As such, I thoroughly welcome the fact that this Bill will:
- Prohibit operators of sunbed premises from allowing anyone under 18 years of age to use a sunbed on their premises.
- Require sunbed operators to make users fully aware of the risks involved and to put in place compulsory warning signs
However, this Bill does not prohibit people with Type 1 and Type 2 skin- the fairest skin types from using sunbeds as is currently the case in Australia.
The regulations will warn these people of the risk, but will not stop those using sunbeds, even though their cancer risk is double. Cancer prevention is key and I believe the only way to be sure of prevention is by prohibiting users with Type I and Type II skin.
In parts of Australia, tanning shops are compelled to carry out a skin type assessment prior to a person using a sunbed. The Fitzpatrick Scale of six points is a universal assessment that can easily be utilised by all shops here too.
Public health should be paramount in the introduction of this legislation. I believe that those with a greater risk need better protection. When it comes to the risk, there is no equality.
Although I would like to see the prohibiting of users with Type I and Type II skin from using sunbeds – overall I believe this Bill is a lifesaving piece of legislation which cannot be introduced too soon.