The use of sunbeds is on the rise as are the numbers of those with Malignant Melanoma. Are these factors linked? Hannah Trinder investigates.
Over the last thirty years, rates of malignant melanoma in Great Britain have risen faster than any of the current top ten cancers. The increasing popularity of sunbeds is the main environmental reason. It has become so serious that the disorder ‘Tanorexia’ now exists. People have started opting for an easier, yet more dangerous way to tan; Sunbeds.
John Wilton, 44, is the unlikely receptionist behind the desk at ‘Tanfastic’, a tanning salon which specialises in sun beds and spray tans. Sat in a tracksuit with surprisingly pale skin, considering the industry he works for, he states that the salon offers either horizontal or vertical sunbeds- customers take their pick. So do people ever ask about the dangerous side effects? His laugh could not have been louder, ‘No’, he grunts, ‘Not one person ever bothers- they’re too eager to get started.’
‘I think I’m only gonna go on for six minutes Chels’
‘What’s the point in that, I’m going on for 10 minutes.’ And takes off down the stairs following Wilton towards her heaven.
‘I’m obviously not as hard core as her’ the first lady giggles, following her friend. It seems the longer women tan for, the better they feel.
Wilton returns and sits behind his desk, ‘Customers turn up, grab their token, strip off and away they go.’
Alice Wilson, a student from Wokingham, started using sunbeds three months ago and says she already feels ‘addicted’. She first started tanning by using tanning lotion but soon got bored of having to constantly top it up, ‘Fake tan can go wrong, it goes patchy and doesn’t last as long’. So she sought out an easier way- sunbeds. ‘I know the risks are bad especially since I’m fair skinned, but it’s so much quicker than fake tan. I like being brown, I prefer it to being pale.’
Although tanning products are mainly advertised towards females, many males have jumped on the bandwagon too. Rafe Lynott, 19, from Bromley feels pressure to look tanned like ‘the models do on TV’. Lynott tries to visit a tanning salon fortnightly despite the fact he is fair skinned, therefore fitting in to the category of those most at risk of skin cancer. ‘A sunbed is great at the end of a long week, gets me ready for the weekend.’
(Left: Twitter shows the public’s opinion on sunbeds)
More than a quarter of a million children aged 11-17 are risking their health by avidly seeking a tan from sunbeds. An average of 6 percent of 11-17 year olds are using sun beds, despite their being an age restriction of 18 in place.
Tanorexia is a body image disorder and those who suffer feel they are ‘unacceptably pale’ and cannot see what they truly look like while staring at a mirror. Although you can receive help mentally, it is usually too late to fix the physical damage done to the skin.
Although sunbeds are sometimes marketed as a safe way to get a ‘controlled tan’, this is false information, the UV rays they give out are harmful. The rays damage the skin cells over time, which can then lead on to skin cancer.
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- Around 13,300 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in 2011 in the UK
- Around 11,100 cases of malignant melanoma a year have been linked to increased exposure of sunlight and the use of sunbeds.
- Malignant melanoma is almost twice as common in young women (up to age 34) as in young men.
- More than two young adults (aged 15-34) are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day in the UK, and it is the second most common cancer in this age group.