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New research links sun beds to non-melanoma skin cancer

Queensland scientists have confirmed new research linking non-melanoma skin cancers to the use of sun beds.

Dr Catherine Olsen, from QIMR’s Cancer Control Group, said while previous studies had shown solariums increased the risk of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the British Medical Journal (BMJ) study released today was the first time a clear link had been found to basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

Dr Olsen said the research, led by Professor Eleni Linos at the University of California, found the risk was particularly high among people aged under 25.

“The evidence is well and truly in. Sun beds are a cause of the three main types of skin cancer,” Dr Olsen said.

“This latest study also suggests that sun bed exposure in early life can prove critical,” Dr Olsen said.

“Young people in particular should be made aware that the use of sun beds for short term cosmetic tanning carries the long term price of an increased risk of skin cancer.”

The analysis of 12 studies of more than 9300 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer found exposure to indoor tanning increased the risk of developing SCC by 67 % and BCC by 29 %.

Cases of non-melanoma skin cancer have increased dramatically over the last few decades. Although not as lethal as melanoma, they affect a vast number of people worldwide and are a substantial financial burden to health care systems.

The World Health Organisation has classified tanning beds as a group 1 carcinogen, alongside tobacco smoking and asbestos.

In Queensland and Victoria, pale-skinned people and those under 18 are banned from using solariums. The New South Wales government will ban all sun beds by 2014. Earlier this month a group of Victorian health professionals called for a national ban.

Dr Olsen was asked by BMJ to comment on the findings of this latest research, which is published online.