September 2013 Topping up a tan increases risk of skin cancer Sunbeds are a popular way to top up a summer tan but with evidence of the health risks associated with sunbed use, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are encouraging people to think twice before using them. Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA, said: “Using sunbeds can harm your long-term health. Sunbeds have been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer, with people who use sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 significantly increasing their risk of developing malignant melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer). Sunbeds also contribute to eye damage including a higher risk of cataracts if appropriate eye protection is not worn, and premature skin ageing which means that skin becomes coarse, leathery and wrinkled at a younger age.” Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator, Cancer Focus, said: “There are still people who are ignoring the risks and choosing to use sunbeds. We advise that no one should use sunbeds for cosmetic purposes. The levels of UV radiation emitted from sunbeds can be as strong as the Mediterranean midday sun in summer - remember there is no safe level of exposure.” New sunbed legislation was introduced in May 2012 and states that operators of sunbed premises mustn’t allow anyone under 18 to use a sunbed; must provide customers with information on the risks associated with sunbed use; and must ensure protective eyewear is available. Trudy Stanfield, Chair of the Sunbed Working Group said: “We would ask the public to support the Environmental Health Departments at local councils in enforcing this legislation, as we rely on reports from the public to identify businesses which are not complying with the new law. Any businesses that fail to comply with the law are committing an offence and will be subject to a fixed penalty.” If you are concerned about skin cancer you should talk to your GP. You can also call the Cancer Focus free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity’s nurses on [email protected] Early detection of skin cancer can significantly improve survival so regularly checking your skin is important. Ends Notes to editors: 1. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for 28% of all cancers diagnosed here - around 3,330* people develop it each year. While most skin cancers are not malignant the most severe form, malignant melanoma, can be a potentially life threatening condition, particularly if not diagnosed in the early stages. (* average number per year from 2007-2011. Ref. NI Cancer Registry) 2. It is important to check skin regularly for suspected skin cancers. Check the whole body as skin cancer can occur in places not normally exposed to the sun. Be aware of any new spots, or existing spots that have changed colour, size or shape. A skin cancer may be a spot that bleeds easily, never heals properly or is always itchy. If an unusual spot is identified, show this to a doctor. Most skin cancers can be treated successfully if treated early. 3. The Public Health Agency is the lead organisation for the implementation of the Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan 2011-2021 launched in July 2011. 4. Building on the work of the former Northern Ireland Melanoma Implementation Group (NIMSIG), a Skin Cancer Strategy Implementation Group, jointly chaired by the Public Health Agency and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, has been established to take forward the six objectives contained in the Strategy and Action Plan. 5. The Skin Cancer Strategy Implementation Group is a multi-agency group which includes representatives from the Public Health Agency, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Environmental Health, General Practice, Pharmacy, the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, the Northern Health & Social Care Trust, the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, the Southern Health & Social Care Trust, the Western Health & Social Care Trust, the Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.