Sunbed ban plan for teens, fair skinned

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 10:01 15/11/2012
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RISKY BUSINESS: Sunbeds are not recommended.

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Teenagers and fair-skinned adults may be banned from sunbeds under a proposed member's bill.

The Health Skin Cancer and Trauma Prevention Amendment Bill calls for enforced regulations on sunbeds and cosmetic lasers.

A voluntary standard is all that prevents people with very fair photo type one skin from using sunbeds.

They would be barred, along with teenagers, from using the cosmetic tanning devices under National MP Dr Paul Hutchison's bill.

UV light from sunbeds is twice as harmful as sun radiation, New Zealand Cancer Society health promotion manager Jan Pearson said. "Sometimes they're three to four times as strong.

"I personally used a sunbed once and got burnt. It's nasty because it's a full body burn, whereas when you're in the sun you usually only burn one part of your body."

Advocates have been working on the bill for a number of years, she said.

"We're calling for sunbeds and laser devices to be operated only by licenced providers."

It has the support of The Cancer Society, University of Otago, Consumer NZ, Melanoma Foundation and New Zealand Dermatological Society under the umbrella organisation Melnet.

"Sunbed use is widely associated with an increased risk of early onset melanoma," Hutchison said.

"It's also associated with skin burns, premature aging, corneal burns, cataracts, ocular melanoma, and photodermatitis."

New Zealand's melanoma rates are the worst in the world, resulting in 326 deaths in 2009. The same year 2212 people were listed as having melanoma.

An estimated 67,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers crop up every year.

It's unknown how many sunbeds there are in New Zealand.

Many are operated out of beauty therapy clinics and gyms.

They have been banned in New South Wales and South Australia is following suit with bans to take effect by 2015.

New Zealand advocates are concerned those operating the devices and cosmetic lasers don't understand the risks and are not communicating these to customers.

Just three out 30 Auckland and Wellington clinics approached through a recent Consumer NZ survey refused a sunbed to a person with very fair skin.

There are currently no standards governing the use of pulsed light and laser devices which are commonly used in the beauty industry to even skin tone.

There is risk is that skin cancers can go unnoticed if disguised through such treatment, Hutchison said.

"There is a danger of malignant lesions being treated inappropriately with potentially dire consequences."

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The proposed bill would have to be drawn from the member's ballot before it is debated by Parliament.

- Stuff

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