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SOLARIUMS, SUNLAMPS AND SKIN CANCER
ANTI-CANCER COUNCIL OF VICTORIA
Two out of three people in Australia will develop skin cancer during their lives. This is the highest skin cancer rate in the world, and is due largely to our exposure to sunlight (solar UV radiation). People who use solariums simply add to this already high level of UV exposure, and probably increase the risk of skin cancer.
Solariums and sunlamps offer people an artificial tanning process which is claimed to be effective and harmless. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that the ultraviolet radiation used in solariums and sunlamps may damage the skin, and may increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
In view of this possibility, the Anti-Cancer Council strongly recommends against the use of solariums and sunlamps for cosmetic tanning.
Ultraviolet radiation, those rays which cause skin damage, is made up of three components: UVA, UVB and UVC. The harmful effects of UVB and UVC have been known for some time. No UVC from the sun reaches the earth's surface but it can be created artificially by lamps. UVA was, until recently, thought to be relatively harmless, but evidence is emerging that UVA may also cause skin damage, and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Are solariums harmful to health?
Most solariums claim to use only UVA.
There are two issues here.
Firstly, the output from solarium lamps changes over time. If UVB and UVC (both of which are dangerous in much smaller quantities than UVA) are to be excluded, solariums need to be tested regularly, especially if lamps or perspex are changed.
Secondly, researchers no longer regard exposure to UVA as safe.
Solarium advertising claims that UVA does not cause skin ageing, nor does it cause skin cancer in the long term.
UVA radiation penetrates the top layer of your skin and can cause damage to the lower layer. This causes skin to age prematurely, with effects that include roughening, blotchiness, wrinkling and general looseness.
When UVA exposure is sufficiently great, it may cause sunburn as well as a tan.
There is good evidence now to show that UVA is a contributing cause (with UVB) of common skin cancer. In addition, two recent studies suggest that using a sunbed or sunlamp increases the risk of developing melanoma.
Solarium advertising claims that a UVA tan actually protects you from sunburn, premature ageing of the skin, and skin cancer which result from exposure to natural sunshine.
Whether a tan is brought on be UVA alone (solariums) or by UVA and UVB together (as in natural sunlight), the UV dose accumulated while achieving a tan adds to the lifetime total dose, and to the risk of skin cancer. Although people who have acquired a suntan may not sunburn as easily as those without, a tan does not give you sufficient protection against the harmful effects of everyday levels of sunlight in Australia. The case of farmers or outdoor workers illustrates this point; these people tend to have a constant suntan, but their skin still ages prematurely, and they develop many more skin cancers than indoor workers.
People with skin that burns easily and does not tan are the most vulnerable, but those at risk also include the more olive-skinned people of Southern Europe. Only those with very dark skins, such as Aboriginal people, seem to be most immune to skin cancer.
Moreover, UVA only produces a
'satisfactory' tan in those who develop a tan relatively easily
in natural sunshine. Those who burn easily and tan poorly in the
sun are likely to be disappointed with the results from a
For more information on skin cancer or how to
prevent it, contact the
ANTI-CANCER COUNCIL OF VICTORIA
Solariums pose health hazards
When used under medical supervision, the treatment is very effective. There is a small risk of skin cancer associated with the treatment, but is often outweighed by the unpleasant nature of the underlying skin condition which is being treated. However, medical supervision is required to ensure that the correct treatment is given and that if any problems occur, they are detected and treated early.
Regulations for the use of
solariums and sunlamps
Sunlamps that are sold for use in
the home are not controlled by any such guidelines. These
sunlamps often emit high levels of UVB and may even emit the more
damaging UVC. These products should only be used on the advice of
a doctor, and then only under strict medical supervision.
ADVICE TO CLIENTS
Please read carefully the following information:
Have carefully read and fully understand the above information
and choose to undergo exposure in this establishment. (The act of
signing this form does not limit, reduce or exclude any of the
legal rights or remedies the Client would otherwise have).
THIS INFORMATION WAS PRODUCED FOR THE ANTI-CANCER COUNCIL'S SUNSMART PROGRAM, WITH FUNDING SUPPORT FROM THE VICTORIAN HEALTH PROMOTION FOUNDATION.