There are two main types of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma – melanoma is the least common but is the most serious form. There has been a dramatic increase in cases over the years with malignant melanoma skin cancer cases nearly trebling in 25 years.¹
The main risk factor with this particular cancer is over exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) either as a result of natural sunlight or by using a sunbed. Research shows that using a sunbed once a month or more can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by more than half and using sunbeds before the age of 35 years can increase the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by up to 75%.²
With these figures in mind the Public Health Agency (PHA) is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the health effects of sunbed use, especially among young people.
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “Many people think having a tan makes them look healthier and more attractive. Now we know having a tan is actually a sign that our skin is trying to protect itself from UV damage rather than a sign of being healthy. There is a common misconception that sunbeds offer a safe way to get a tan but this again is not true. Repeated exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells, which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster. Today the PHA wants to highlight the very serious risks of using sunbeds to young people, so they will realise that if they use sunbeds their looks will fade along with their tan.
While there are a number of short term health effects from using sunbeds, such as, burnt painful skin; skin dryness; bumpy, itchy skin and possible eye irritations, the World Health Organization (WHO) states there are a number of long term health effects including:
• a significantly higher risk of skin cancer including malignant melanoma;
• eye damage including a higher risk of cataracts – if appropriate eye protection is not worn;
• accelerated skin damage, including premature ageing of the skin.
Speaking about the issue Dr Clifford McMillan, Consultant Dermatologist with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “During my time as a Consultant Dermatologist the workload pattern has shifted to the point where dealing with skin cancer or potential skin cancer now accounts for the major part of my work. Over the last 20-30 years melanoma incidence has been doubling every decade. It is the most dangerous of the common skin cancers and affects down into a much younger age group. It is now one of the commonest cancers in young women who also happen to be the group most likely to use sunbeds. While sunbed usage does not fully account for the increase in melanoma it is a significant risk factor and one that could be and should be avoided.”
The sunbed campaign will run from 25 August until 3 October 2010 and includes television, outdoor and online advertising. The publication, Look a little deeper, developed by the Ulster Cancer Foundation, will also be distributed to support the campaign to GP surgeries, post primary schools, hairdressers, council leisure facilities and central health promotion resource units. For further information on the dangers of sunbeds and skin cancer visit www.careinthesun.org or call the Ulster Cancer Foundation’s freephone cancer information and support helpline 0800 783 3339.
Notes to the editor
The campaign launch will take place on Wednesday 25 August at 11.30am, Education Suite, Mater Hospital, Belfast, when a number of key speakers will be available for interview.
¹ Smith A, & Gavin A. Care of Patients with Malignant Melanoma of Skin in Northern Ireland 2006. N. Ireland Cancer Registry: 2008”
² World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Exposure to artificial UV Radiation and Skin Cancer. WHO: 2006
100 poster sites located close to tanning salons will feature the campaign advertising. A pdf of this advertising is attached for information.
The Northern Ireland Melanoma Strategy Implementation Group (NIMSIG) is responsible for implementing the Department of Health Social Service and Public Safety’s strategy for the prevention, early detection and treatment of malignant melanoma and other skin cancers in Northern Ireland. It is facilitated by the Ulster Cancer Foundation and includes representatives from health, health and safety, environmental health, education, voluntary, public and private sectors and in 2004 NIMSIG established the sunbed working group to address the issue of elimination of artificial tanning equipment.
The Sunbed Working Group facilitated by the Ulster Cancer Foundation worked with all local councils to remove sunbeds from council premises by 2006. NI was the first region in the UK to achieve this.
Contact PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.