Sunbeds blamed for 100 deaths a year

Around 100 people a year die from skin cancer caused by sunbed use, says a leading medical expert.

Research by Newcastle General Hospital showed

that eight per cent of exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays came from the tanning lamps, and the rest from the sun.

It is these rays which are the main cause of melanoma, a potentially fatal type of skin cancer which kills 1600 people every year.

Professor Brian Diffey, who led the study, concluded that while the vast majority of these cases were caused by the sun, around 100 could be attributed to sunbeds.

But he cautioned against overreaction to the figures, noting that as a leisure activity it was nowhere near as harmful as smoking and drinking which kill thousands annually.

He added: "The point is that 8 per cent or so of the population's exposure to UV comes from sun beds but the other 90 or so per cent from the sun.

"You can't ban the sun and neither would you want to. The sensible thing is to warn people about the risk."

He said he was not calling for sunbeds to be banned.

"Sunbeds should be discouraged, but prohibition is not warranted, as exposure to the sun - which cannot be regulated - remains the major factor behind the risk of melanoma."

A spokeswoman for the Sunbed Association, which represents around 2,000 health clubs, leisure centres, and tanning salons, said measures were already in place to prevent harm being caused.

She said: "The Sunbed Association promotes responsible tanning.

"Customers will have their skin type and suitability as to whether to tan or not assessed before they are offered a tan, so people don't abuse the sunbeds."