Teenagers who want the golden glow of a year-round tan face being banned from using tanning salons because of increasing evidence that sunbeds cause cancer.

The European Commission is planning new controls following a ruling by an EU panel of experts that anyone under 18, as well as people with a greater risk of getting skin cancer, should not be allowed to use sunbeds on health grounds.

The crackdown was welcomed by the Department of Health and medical charities, which said that introducing proper controls on the currently unregulated industry was long overdue.

Sara Hiams, of Cancer Research UK, said: "We would urge the European Commission to act as quickly as possible on this. We're particularly concerned about the risks from increased use of sunbeds by young people."

Cancer experts are alarmed by the number of "tanorexic" teenagers in Britain who use sunbeds to create permanent tans.The worst form of skin cancer, a malignant melanoma, is the fastest growing type of cancer in Britain, rising by 24 per cent in the late 1990s, and the third most common type among 15- to 24-year-olds. More than 70,000 new skin cancer cases are reported each year in Britain, and 2,000 deaths.

But other problems include premature ageing of the skin, making it look leathery and wrinkled, and an increased threat of eye diseases such as cataracts if goggles are not used. The risks affect large numbers of people, including those with fair skin, red hair, numerous moles and freckles, and people with a family history of skin cancer.

Kathy Banks, the secretary of the Sunbed Association, which represents about 20 per cent of Britain's 7,500 tanning salons, said her members would welcome a ban on under-18s and stricter health controls. "There are risks associated with tanning but it's not actually the use of our products but the abuse of our products that causes problems," she said.

Ms Banks said her members were required by their insurance policies and her association's code of conduct not to allow under-16s to use their sunbeds or adults with vulnerable skin types, in line with Health and Safety Executive recommendations.

However, investigations by the consumers' group Which? found very lax controls by the association's members, which failed to stop people with vulnerable skin types. Checks in Newcastle found that many salons regularly failed to stop teenagers from using their machines.

Additional reporting by Gavin Bradshaw, Hannah Collier and Richard Fletcher


Sunbeds have made her 23-year-old sister look like a wrinkled 30-year-old, but Zara Murphy cannot stop using them.

Zara, 17, an aspiring dancer from the Wirral, started going to tanning salons twice a week with her mum when she was 15 because she felt that it made her more attractive.

"I look healthier and more attractive when I've got a tan, but it depends on whether I'm going out or not," she said. "But I use it less now after seeing what it's doing to my sister. She's been using it for about eight years. She looks awful."

Even the news that a school friend had been diagnosed with skin cancer after using sunbeds failed to put her off. "When you're on stage you look really pale. Speak to anyone who goes on stage and they'll tell you that you have to cake yourself in make-up."

She has had a few problems but it has not put her off using them. "I've burned myself a couple of times, and it doesn't look great when you look like a tomato."


* Sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D, essential for healthy teeth and bones

* It is easy to protect yourself against sunburn and strong sun

* Some scientists believe that moderate sunbathing increases feelings of wellbeing by raising serotonin levels in the brain