The World Health Organization announced Thursday that no one under age 18 should use sunbeds because the ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. The rising popularity of tanning beds and booths combined with the growing cultural desire to be tan are considered 'the prime reasons behind this fast growth of skin cancers,' WHO said in a statement.
'There has been mounting concern over the past several years that people and in particular, teenagers, are using sunbeds excessively to acquire tans which are seen as socially desirable,' Dr. Kerstin Leitner, WHO assistant director-general for environmental health, said. WHO hopes 'this recommendation will inspire regulatory authorities to adopt stricter controls on the usage of sunbeds.' WHO encourages governments to formulate and enforce effective laws governing the use of sunbeds. In countries where voluntary industry codes of practice exist, the sunbed owners have generally not shown significant capacity to self regulate effectively
Childhood exposure to UV and the number of times a child is burnt by UV, either from the sun or from sunbeds, are known to increase the risk of developing melanoma later in life. Globally, there are an estimated 132,000 cases of malignant melanoma every year and 66,000 deaths from this dangerous skin cancer. According to WHO, the incidence of skin cancer has tripled in the last 45 years in Norway and Sweden. A study conducted in Norway and Sweden showed a significant increase in the risk of malignant melanoma among women who had regularly used sunbeds. In the United States, melanoma rates have doubled over the past three decades, with 47,700 annual cases of melanoma and 7,700 deaths annually, according to The American Academy of Dermatology.
The AMA and AAD have both issued public warnings against indoor tanning. 'AMA and AAD have urged action that would ban the sale and use of tanning equipment for non-medical purposes,' AAD said in a statement. AAD said 80 percent of sun damage occurs before age 18 and light-skinned blonds or red heads are at the highest risk for sun injury. WHO recommendations are also consistent with those of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the European Society for Skin Cancer Prevention (EUROSKIN).
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has classified exposure to sunlamps or sunbeds as 'known to be carcinogenic to humans' and states that the longer the exposure, the greater the risk, especially to people exposed before the age of 30 years. Tanning beds have the capacity to emit UV rays that are significantly stronger than the midday summer sun. There is increasing evidence that longer-wavelength used in sunbeds, which penetrates more deeply into the skin, also contributes to the induction of cancer.
There is a widespread false belief that a tan acquired using a sunbed will offer good skin protection against sunburn for a holiday in a sunny location. In reality, a tan acquired using a sunbed offers only limited protection against sunburn from solar UV. It has been estimated that a sunbed tan offers the same protective effect as using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of only 2-3.