Prom girls’ cancer sunbed warning

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MUMS in Hartlepool are putting their teenage daughters’ beauty before their health by trying to persuade tanning shops to allow them to use sunbeds.

Sunbed operators in the town say the reasons for town mothers wanting their kids to go under the UV lights and risk getting skin cancer is to make their skin turn brown for school-leaving prom nights or to help get rid of acne.

The revelation comes as Cancer Research UK figures show skin cancer rates have trebled among those aged 15 to 34 since the 1970s, when just 1.8 per cent of 100,000 people contracting the potentially-deadly disease, compared to 5.9 per cent now.

The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 is set to be introduced today that will make it illegal for tanning salons to allow under-18s to use their sunbeds due to worries over them being a health hazard.

Council bosses say children using sunbeds can have very serious consequences and trading standards officers will be working with firms to highlight the new law.

Dad-of-one Sean Taylor, 24, who works in Sunbedworld, in Murray Street, said: “There’s some mothers who want their daughters on the sunbeds if they suffer from acne because it apparently dries the skin up and stops the oil causing the spots.

“We also get some for cosmetic reasons. Before prom night we get a lot of mums asking if their daughters can go on the sunbeds so they’re tanned for their school-leavers prom.”

Medics believe the use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancer among young people, with more than two under 35s being diagnosed every day, as well as failing to use sufficient protection against the sun’s strong rays while on holiday abroad.

Ruthanne Atkinson, a beautician at Dream Tanning and Beauty, owned by Alan and Lorraine Craggs, in York Road, said: “We advise our customers that if they use the sunbeds in moderation they are safe.

“We also advise new customers on their skin type and what they should be doing to stop them from harming their skin.”

But Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager, advised people to avoid using sunbeds altogether, saying: “Sunbeds are not a safe alternative to tanning. In fact, using a sunbed before the age of 35 can increase your risk of melanoma - skin cancer - by 75 per cent.

“Young women in particular need to take care since they are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than young men.”

Symptoms of melanoma include moles getting bigger, changing shape or colour (such as becoming darker or patchy), itching or painful moles, and ones that look inflamed, bleed or become crusty.

Neil Harrison, senior trading standards officer for Hartlepool Borough Council, said his staff will be advising salon owners about the new legislation over the coming days.

He added: “The consequences of allowing children to use sunbeds can be very serious, and for this reason trading standards will be working with the trade to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities.”

Anyone who wants more advice about the new legislation can contact trading standards on (01429) 523567.