Professor John Hawk, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital in London, said up to 60 per cent of people using sunbeds twice a week for more than two years could be at risk of skin cancer and other complaints.
Speaking at the launch of a Health Education Authority campaign on the risks of sunbeds, Professor Hawk said a ban on sunbeds was "impossible at present" because, "there are huge commercial pressures from the manufacturers who have a lot of influence".
Sunbed manufacturers dismissed his claims, saying that sunbeds were still safer than natural tanning outdoors.
Professor Hawk said: "Sunbeds have only been around for 20 years and it can take up to 20 to 30 years for skin cancers to develop." He added: "We have been told for years that sunbeds are safe but they are not."
A Health Education Authority survey found more than three million people in the UK had used a sunbed in the past year.
Manufacturers insisted that strict safeguards meant their products were safe to use. A statement from The Sunbed Association said: "Obtaining a suntan ... through the sensible use of a sunbed, is undoubtedly a more responsible approach to getting a suntan than over-exposure to natural sunlight."
More than 40,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year; 2,000 die from the disease.Reuse content