An international panel of cancer experts have reclassified ultraviolet (UV)-emitting sun beds to the highest category of cancer risk. The evidence reviewed included research that has shown that people who first use sun beds under the age of 30 increase their risk of developing melanomas of the skin by 75%.
“On review of the available evidence it was apparent that sun beds can cause both skin and eye melanomas”, said Professor Green, Deputy Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and member of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
“Sun beds are dangerous because they emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation which damages DNA in our skin and eye tissue. However, it is important to remember that solar radiation from the sun is the main source of exposure to damaging UV radiation for people overall, especially for Australians”.
The ultraviolet component that reaches the earth’s surface comprises around 95% UVA and 5% UVB, with UVC being blocked by the ozone layer.
“The genetic changes in the skin cells that are caused by solar radiation have long been attributed mostly to UVB radiation. However, changes have also been detected in the skin and skin tumours of UVA treated mice.
UVC also causes genetic changes in the skin of mice though UVC does not naturally occur in sunlight. Thus the entire UV spectrum – UVA, UVB and UVC – was also reclassified by the IARC panel as carcinogenic to humans”.
According to Professor Green, “the best way to prevent skin cancer is to continue to adhere to the sun protection message of ‘slip, slop, slap’ and also to avoid the use of sun beds ”.
The reclassification has been published in a special report in the August edition ofThe Lancet Oncology.