The North East of England has been named the ‘sunbed capital of the UK’ after data shows nearly half of adults in the region use sunbeds.
The survey, carried out by the charity Melanoma Focus, found that 43% of adults living in the North East of England say they have used sunbeds at least once. Scotland was shown to have the second-highest usage in the UK with 38% saying they had used sunbeds, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber at 33%.
Across the UK, around a third (30%) of adults say they have used sunbeds at least once, despite 79% of all respondents saying they were aware that sunbeds could increase the risk of skin cancer. Some studies found that first exposure to indoor tanning before age 35 was associated with a 75% increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Sunbeds were the least popular in Northern Ireland, with 20% of respondents reporting using them. This was followed by the South East, East Midlands and West Midlands, where all resulted in 26% of adults saying they had used sunbeds at least once.
Across all regions, young people are more likely to report using sunbeds – 42% of 18 to 25-year-olds compared to 18% of 66 to 75-year-olds.
Females were more likely to be aware of the perils of using sunbeds, with 86% saying they knew that sunbeds could increase the risk of skin cancer, but sunbed usage was similar for men and women.
1 in 36 men and 1 in 47 women in the UK will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and, across the country, accounts for 1% of all cancer deaths and kills 2,300 people per year. Yet 86% of melanomas are preventable.
Ultraviolet radiation, which comes from the sun or sunbeds, is an important factor that increases the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. It is estimated that about 100 people die each year from melanomas due to sunbed use in the UK.
Susanna Daniels, CEO at Melanoma Focus, said: ‘These results are surprising because the survey results show that sunbed use is very high in some parts of the country but that their popularity does not correlate directly with colder areas of the UK.’
‘This would suggest that sunbed usage is down to fashion and cultural influences instead of geographical location. We strongly recommend that everyone avoid sunbeds; the increased risks of melanoma skin cancer are significant.’
Leah Roach, 32, from Sidcup in London, was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2020. She said: ‘I’ve used sunbeds and sunbathed in the past. I didn’t take the risk of skin cancer seriously, even though my grandmother died of melanoma in the 70s.’
‘In June 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, I had a persistent cough, back pain and a lump in my back. I went to A&E with breathlessness, and, after having scans and a biopsy, I was extremely shocked to be diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma skin cancer.’
‘Cancer had spread throughout my body, so I needed immunotherapy and major surgery to remove two tumours from my abdomen. I spent two months in the hospital on my own, and it was very lonely.’
‘My last two scans have been clear, and I’m feeling positive, but my message to anyone else using sunbeds is that it’s not worth it. Cancer is awful and potentially life-shortening. Use fake tan or enjoy the skin tone you have. It’s not worth ruining or losing your life for tanning.’
Professor Catherine Harwood, the consultant dermatologist at Barts Health and Trustee at Melanoma Focus, said: ‘There is significant evidence that sunbeds are a risk factor for skin cancer, particularly in young people with pale skin. So, I would strongly advise all to avoid sunbeds from the medical perspective.’