Are you addicted to sunbeds?

With the summer sun starting to fade, some of us may be tempted to top up our tans by having regular sunbeds. But according to the latest research, one in five people who use sunbeds may be addicted to them.

Around 10 percent of the population of Northern Europe – including the UK – use sunbeds on a regular basis for tanning purposes, says the World Health Organization (WHO). But while sunbeds generally emit UVA radiation, which is thought to be the least damaging of the different types of UV radiation that comes from the sun, these days sunbeds are being manufactured that produce higher levels of UVB to help speed up the tanning process.

The WHO also states that overexposure to UV radiation from both the sun and artificial sources – such as sunbeds – plays an important role in the development of skin cancer as well as eye conditions such as cataracts and immune system disorders. Not only that, but over-exposure to UV radiation also results in premature skin ageing, WHO experts add.

And now, experts writing in the British Journal of Dermatology suggest 20 percent of people using sunbeds show signs of addiction. There’s increasing evidence that excessive tanning is potentially an addictive behaviour, they claim. So they created a method to discover those who are most at risk – called the Behavioral Addiction Indoor Tanning Screener (or BAITS for short).

Having screened 330 current sunbed users using the BAITS method, 19.7 percent screened positive for symptoms of a potential indoor tanning addiction. But among those who hadn’t used a sunbed for 12 months, fewer than two percent were found to have the signs of sunbed addiction.

Melanoma risk

“There is strong evidence that use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancers, including malignant melanoma, which is the most deadly type,” says Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists.

”For people who start using sunbeds before the age of 35 years, the relative risk of malignant melanoma almost doubles. If indoor tanning does indeed have addiction potential, being able to assess the scale of the problem will be imperative. It certainly would help to explain why so many people continue to use sunbeds despite knowing the risks.”

However some people may not realise having sunbeds could be putting them at risk, while others just aren’t worried about it. Cancer Research UK recently found that more than 25 percent of people who use sunbeds are unconcerned about the associated dangers. But the charity explains that while sunbeds are sometimes marketed as a ‘controlled way’ of getting a ‘safer tan’, they are no safer than exposure to the sun itself. One study, say Cancer Research UK experts, found the average skin cancer risk from sunbeds can be more than double that of spending the same length of time in the Mediterranean midday sun.

If you can’t imagine life without a tan, ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend products that could help you fake a healthy glow instead, such as self-tanning products and bronzers. Your skin will thank you for it.

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