MOST sunbed users are given “incorrect and harmful advice”, an investigation has revealed.
Up to 70 per cent of people using tanning salons are not informed of the dangers posed, a leading cancer charity warned.
Founder of Melanoma UK, Gillian Nuttall said the “alarming but sadly not surprising” findings show health and safety standards are being breached.
Backing calls to ban sunbeds, Ms Nuttall said urgent action is needed to make sure people are given the right information.
She told The Sun: “It shows that salons are not observing health and safety regulations.
“We are alarmed by the results, but we are sadly not surprised and we want to see urgent action taken to rectify the situation.
“There are huge risks associated with using sunbeds and all staff working in salons should have to undergo extensive training.”
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer caused by repeated tanning and accounts for 20 per cent of skin cancers.
A study from Dundee University and Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands previously found that sunbeds significantly increased the risk of SCC.
Research is often focused on Melanoma, which is accountable for one per cent of skin cancers.
This is while a Norwegian study also found that regular sunbed use can almost double the risk of skin cancer.
Researcher Dr Simon Lergenmuller published a study in the JAMA Dermatology journal last year and said there is a dose-response association between indoor tanning and SCC risk among women.
As part of the Melanoma UK investigation more than 100 mystery shoppers called salons across the UK to check standards across the industry.
This involved a shopper calling salons and posing to be a potential sunbed client.
The findings collated by Melanoma UK show seven in ten customers were given incorrect or harmful advice.
Just over a third (35 per cent) of tanning shops failed to ask clients for ID before letting them use sunbeds, despite the law dictating you must be over the age of 18.
One mystery shopper taking part said: “The member of staff said that I didn’t need to worry about burning on the sunbed as they have special tubes that guarantee you will never burn, which I found surprising.
“She sounded very confident but I was quite shocked at the information given, especially as I explained I had been burnt from the sun as a child.”
Despite Melanoma UK’s findings, The Sunbed Association said the “rhetoric does not match the reality”.
In a statement provided to The Sun, chairman Gary Lipman said the association had done it’s own mystery shop – which did not match up to Melanoma UK’s evidence.
“The analysis of the detailed questionnaire completed by the mystery shoppers across hundreds of our member salons is at complete odds with the claims being made by Melanoma UK.
“Our approach irrefutably provides a far more representative and accurate picture reflecting the reality of the UK’s professional indoor tanning industry.”
Skin cancer risk
Research has found using sunbeds increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.
That is why The Sun previously launched the Dying For A Tan Campaign, to raise awareness about the dangers of using sunbeds, which can also cause premature ageing.
In the UK there are over 210,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers diagnoses annually.
Meanwhile, around 16,000 cases of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – are diagnosed each year.
Dying For A Tan
There are an estimated 7,000 tanning salons in Britain, with some offering sessions from as little as 50p a minute.
Kids as young as EIGHT are using sunbeds, with seemingly little understanding they are playing Russian Roulette with their health.
According to Cancer Research UK, Melanoma skin cancer risk is 16-25 per cent higher in people who have used a sunbed (at any age), compared to people who have never used sunbeds.
This is because sunbeds pelt the skin with such strong UV rays which increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.
Just 20 minutes on one is comparable to four hours in the sun – with many stronger than Mediterranean rays at midday.
In many cases the damage is invisible until it’s too late, as it can take up to 20 years to become apparent.
It’s part of the reason the World Health Organisation has deemed sunbeds are as dangerous as smoking.
This is why Fabulous says it is time to stop Dying For A Tan.
Beware the dangers
The research was conducted in September and October last year and comes as tanning salons start to once again open their doors following restrictions placed on them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts also found that 43 per cent of salon workers told clients they would not need a skin check.
In addition, 68 per cent of advisers failed to identify high risk users.
Seven people die every day in the UK from malignant melanoma and charity Melanoma UK said it is “alarmed” by the findings.
The main problems identified were that advisers failed to identify the level of risk for customers – including whether or not the client had a family history of skin cancer.
Many also failed to ask whether or not the client had a tendency to burn in natural sunlight.
They also failed to ask if they had medical conditions that became worse when they were exposed to sunlight.
Symptoms of melanoma
The most common sign of melanoma is a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.
The ABCDE checklist should help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma:
- Asymmetrical – melanomas have 2 very different halves and are an irregular shape
- Border – melanomas have a notched or ragged border
- Colours – melanomas will be a mix of 2 or more colours
- Diameter – most melanomas are larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter
- Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma
As well as this they failed to ask if they had excessive moles or freckles and if they had experienced severe sunburn as a child.
A freedom on information request put forward by Melanoma UK revealed that out of 140 councils, just 89 knew the precise number of sunbed salons in their borough.
It also found that 85 councils do not require salons to be licensed and that many will only conduct checks if complaints are raised by clients.
The charity is now calling on the government and councils to enforce legislation to safeguard the public.
Ms Nuttall said the review has given the charity a true understanding of the quality of advice people are being given.
While Ms Nuttall said the hope was that one day sunbeds would be banned altogether, the aim now is to reduce the risk to users and ensure advisers are obliged to operate in a professional standard.
Speaking on behalf of The Sunbed Association Mr Lipman added the exercise conducted by Melanoma UK was a “waste of charity money” as they claimed such evidence could only be determined in person.
“We further suggest this is yet another miserable effort by the charity to attempt to malign our industry based on cherry picked disingenuous information and is certainly not representative of our members’ businesses which account for almost 60 per cent of tanning salons around the UK.
“We can only interpret this as an example of manufactured grievance. If Melanoma UK insists on a fishing expedition, we are entitled to describe the pond.”
The Sunbed Association requires requires members to adhere to a code of compliance.
This includes customer screening by trained staff to identify any contra-indications to tanning and ensure that only those that are able to tan, do so responsibly without burning.
However not all salons are registered with the association and it’s advised that you do your own research before visiting any salon.