Sunbed skin warning

PEOPLE should get off their sunbeds and return to Victorian values where ladies preferred to be pale and interesting, a leading article in the British Medical Journal states.

The pursuit of the year- round suntan through hours spent on a sunbed may be dangerous, Dr David Shuttleworth, a consultant dermatologist at Essex County Hospital, Colchester, says in the article.

Almost all modern commercial sunbeds emit chiefly ultraviolet A radiation - repeated exposure to which can increase skin wrinkling, irregular pigmentation and 'photoageing' in which the skin's texture alters, Dr Shuttleworth says.

'These are not usually considered to be cosmetically desirable effects and some people subsequently seek reversal of these changes at even greater expense than the original tan.'

Even for people who want to start a tan before a fortnight on a Mediterranean beach, a sunbed tan offers 'very limited protection' and could dangerously mislead if over-confidence leads to too much exposure as acute blistering sunburn is thought to be a major risk factor for subsequent skin cancer.

Studies suggest that there is an increased risk of skin cancer from using sunbeds, according to Dr Shuttleworth, and expert committees have said that their use should be discouraged. 'Despite this, the marketing and use of sunbeds remains unregulated in Britain.'

Warnings against excessive exposure to sunlight have not had much effect on sunbed use, Dr Shuttleworth says.

Yet the perception that a year-round tan is a 'social necessity' is recent. Dr Shuttleworth points out: 'Victorian ladies preferred to remain pale and interesting, lest they be confused with the lower classes who toiled in the fields.'

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