Healthy Body

What’s the story with sunbeds?

Last week, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar announced that the second phase of the Public Health (Sunbeds) Act 2014 will come into effect on 2nd March. 
 
This new legislation will mean that people under 18 will not be able to use, buy or hire a sunbed under any circumstances and also means that unsupervised use of sunbeds will be prohibited.
 
Health information and warnings about the dangers of sunbeds will now have to be highlighted and brought to the attention of the public by the tanning salons and protective eyewear is now required.
 
The new legislation was welcomed by the HSE, whose Regional Chief Environmental Health Officer Dr. Maurice Mulcahy said, “We will shortly be writing to all sunbed businesses and will also be actively engaging locally with them over coming weeks, to advise and explain how they can comply with these new legal requirements.” 
 
Dr. Mulcahy also cited information from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, who concluded that: “The risk of cutaneous melanoma is increased by 75% when the use of tanning beds starts before 30 years of age.” 
 
It subsequently raised the classification of the use of UV tanning devices to Group 1 – namely, ‘carcinogenic to humans’.
 
Simply put, this means that sunbeds increase your risk of skin cancer by 75% when they’re used before the age of 30. They have also been found to be so dangerous that they are classed as Group 1 carcinogens, which means that they have been definitively found to cause cancer in humans.
It’s no secret that sunbeds are bad for our skin – people have been bombarded with the message that sunbeds cause skin cancer for years. However it still seems that young girls and guys aren’t listening. 
 
A study done in 2010 showed that almost 140,000 people in Ireland use sunbeds regularly and skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in Ireland, with 10,000 new cases recorded in 2011. The National Cancer Registry of Ireland says this number is expected to double by 2040.
 
So why then are young people still not tuning in?  A lot of people know that sunbeds are bad for our skin, yet aren’t informed of the details behind why they’re bad for us. So here comes the science bit.
 
When you use a sunbed, the UV (Ultraviolet) rays penetrate your skin and damage the DNA within your skin cells. Over time, this damage within the DNA can build up to cause skin cancer. 
 
Skin cancer warning signs show up on your skin in the form of small lumps, ulcers, scaly patches, or a mole that has changed colour, size, or is bleeding or oozing.
 
Of course, skin cancer is not the only negative outcome of sunbeds and is unfortunately not the one that people pay the most attention to. Premature aging and wrinkles are also a big consequence of using sunbeds and the younger you expose your skin, the younger you’ll be when the effects show up. 
 
Stem cells in our skin are the cells responsible for keeping it looking young. They’re the ones that repair and replenish the skin with new cells when the old ones are broken down. As we get older, stem cell activity naturally slows down, which is why we get wrinkles when we age. 
 
But when you expose your skin to UV rays, it damages the stem cells and means that they don’t replenish your skin the way they used to. The result is reduced elasticity and wrinkles, sun spots and dry/easily irritated skin.
 
Unfortunately, it seems that us Irish just aren’t meant to tan (well, except from a bottle). Skin types are split into 4 groups, with type 1 and type 2 skin types being the fairest, easiest to burn and the most susceptible to skin cancers. And they’re also the most common skin types in Ireland.
 
People with type 1 or 2 skin types are encouraged to wear SPF 30 on a daily basis and perform monthly checks on their skin to check for any changes.
 
But why does this have to be a bad thing ?Protecting your skin is easier than it seems.
 
Applying SPF everyday need not be a chore as most good quality foundations and tinted moisturisers contain it anyway. Some people complain about the smell of fake tan and spray tans, but trying different brands of fake tans and a few tips and tricks can counteract this. 
 
For example, the cheaper brands of fake tan might have a stronger smell, but brands like Rockstar tan from Boots (which I use myself) don’t smell bad at all and look really well on. To counteract the smell and also help the tan go on smoother, try mixing it with some scented body lotion on the mitt before applying. It works like a dream!
 
The way I see it, protecting your skin and faking a glow is a lot less hassle then trying to hide those wrinkles down the line. Or even worse, having to deal with the news that you have got skin cancer.
 
Besides, big floppy hats and seventies’ blouses and flares are all the rage right now and do a great job of covering up areas that could get burnt – shielding your skin is the perfect excuse for a new wardrobe!
 
Photo: Whatsername/ Flickr