From: Reuters
Published January 14, 2008 09:09 PM

Solariums found to raise skin cancer risk in young

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Using a solarium to gain a suntan increases the risk of developing skin cancer by 98 percent if you are under the age of 35, with one visit heightening the chance of developing a melanoma by 22 percent, said an Australian study.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with one in every two people developing some form of skin cancer. About 1,600 Australians die each year from skin cancer.

A decades-long sun safety campaign, encouraging Australians to wear hats and sunblock lotions, is now losing its effectiveness with younger Australians and the solarium tanning industry has rapidly expanded in recent years.

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A study by the Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that people under the age of 35 using solariums faced a 98 percent risk of skin cancer and even just one visit to a solarium raised the risk by 22 percent.

"The growth of the solaria industry in Australia has increased four-fold since 1992," institute scientist Dr Louisa Gordon said in a statement received on Tuesday.

"More and more people are going to solariums and are unaware of the health risks. Solariums emit stronger UVB rays, stronger than the outdoor sun... It's very dangerous, it's very high levels of radiation that we shouldn't be exposed to," said Gordon.

The Cancer Council of Australia says solariums can emit UV radiation up to five times as strong as the midday summer sun. The council says a "safe tan" is a myth, as tanning damages skin.

The institute estimated that between 12 to 62 skin cancer cases each year were attributable to indoor tanning devices.

Gordon called on the Australian government to intervene in the solarium industry and enforce a ban on under 18-year-olds using solariums. Melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, is the most common cancer in Australians aged 15 to 40.

Gordon said such action could see 1,000 melanomas and up to 12,000 squamous cell carcinomas, a less severe but sometimes fatal skin cancer, avoided in the next generation of Australians.

(Reporting by Michael Perry, editing by Bill Tarrant)

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