Skin expert warns of sunbed danger

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The Independent Online
A LEADING skin specialist warned yesterday that UV-powered sunbeds could cause permanent damage to the skin and said he would call for them to be banned if they were not already so widespread.

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.