SOLARIUMS & SKIN CANCER
One by one, the states of this nation are falling into line. South Australia is the next cab off the rank. Before it, was New South Wales. Queensland looks set to follow and the pressure is on Victoria to do what its close neighbours have done.
From 2014 in New South Wales and 2015 in South Australia, solariums will be outlawed and the businesses that promote and sell sunbed use have been put on notice to phase them out and find a new way to make a living. And thus, we could be seeing the beginning of the end nationally, of the commercial use of sun beds to deliver those gleaming fake tans that so many are so fond off come October every year.
It’s been a long road. But the evidence has been slowly mounting to close the case.
Recently the British Medical Journal published the results of a study on the effects of sun bed use in northern Europe, where artificial ultraviolet radiation has been widely used as a substitute for real sun since the early 1980s.
The study finds that “sunbed use is associated with a significant increase in risk of melanoma. This risk increases with the number of sunbed sessions and with initial usage at a young age (under 35 years)”. People who used tanning beds were also found to be more likely to develop one of two types of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal and squamous cell carcinoma.
The study went on to issue a stern rebuke to governments dragging their feet on reform.
“The cancerous damage associated with sunbed use is substantial and could be avoided by strict regulation.”
In Australia, strict regulation is missing-in-action outside of New South Wales and South Australia.
In Victoria, where the lobbying has been particularly emotional, the umming and ahhing has been going on since the death of Claire Oliver (right), who pleaded for sunbeds to be outlawed before she died of melanoma in 2007.
Who could forget Claire’s story, broadcast on Sixty Minutes?
Victoria has been mulling over a range of options, from banning sunbeds altogether, to doing very little – increasing the age at which it would be legal to use a solarium and using graphic pictures of malignant skin cancers at the point of purchase.
But Jay Allen, a melanoma survivor who has lobbied to have sun beds banned, says he’s been told that solarium owners in New South Wales are pretty willing to bend the age rules as more and more people become wary of using sunbeds. In fact, he says a NSW Government audit showed that a majority of solariums weren’t obeying the age restrictions. Thus, the change of law.
Of course, the Cancer Council is delighted with the legislators of South Australia and New South Wales.
“The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classed UV-emitting tanning beds as a Grade 1 carcinogen, the highest risk category,” said Brenda Wilson, the CEO of the Cancer Council.
“Solaria emit levels of UV radiation up to three times as strong as the midday summer sun, with about 15 per cent exceeding this level and emitting UVA radiation up to six times as strong.
“There is no safe level of solaria use,” she said.
All of this comes as another new study shows 58% of Australians are short on Vitamin D, the gift of natural sunshine that helps keep bones from becoming brittle, and may help keep diabetes, some cancers and multiple sclerosis at bay.
But as our Vitamin D levels drop as fast as skin cancer levels seem to be rising, the dilemma is a curly one for health professionals.
The scientific data on the efficacy of Vitamin D supplements is confused, abstract and conflicted at best.
So, if supplements aren’t as effective as the real thing, is there a safe way to get Vitamin D the natural way?
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