Australia – the land of summer and a golden tan. And when the sun wasn’t an option or preference, Australians were big fans of sunbeds to gain that bronzed look. We used to think nothing could stop us from getting the tan we dreamed of. Sunbeds, also known solariums, used to be a quick way to achieve a glowing radiant look for those with busy schedules who couldn’t afford a day at the beach.
However, a closer inspection found that tanning beds are not safe. They emit high levels of UV radiation, which can severely increase your chances of getting skin cancer.
Measures had to be taken; a legal ban on commercial tanning beds in Australia in 2015 was aimed at minimising population exposure to one of the deadliest types of skin cancer in the world which prevails in Australia: melanoma.
Why are sunbeds unsafe?
Sunbeds emit dangerous levels of UV radiation which have been scientifically proven to nearly double the chances of developing skin cancer. Overexposure to UV radiation can also cause premature skin ageing and eye damage.
The Australian rate of melanoma is two out of three individuals to develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Recent findings suggest that should sunbeds be eliminated completely, one in six melanomas in young people between 18 and 29 years old would be prevented.
Dr Pedro Valente is a skin cancer specialist and cosmetic surgeon providing services at Specialist Clinics of Australia. Dr Valente feels very passionate about educating people about the risks associated with sunbeds.
During his career, Dr Valente has focused on diagnosing and managing skin cancer, while ensuring his patients get accurate information about how to better care for their skin. “People need to be encouraged to take action when it comes to the health of their skin. Otherwise, we risk seeing the rate of melanoma increasing further.”
Dr Valente explains that when using a sunbed, you can’t control the level of radiation you expose yourself to. “We had hoped that by investing in patient education as well as a nation-wide ban, people would think twice before they used a sunbed to get their tan”, Dr Valente says.
The emerging black market and overseas solariums
Despite all the risks associated with using sunbeds, some tan-aholics admit they will not stop using them. The Australia-wide ban has lead those desperate to take to the internet to source home solariums or turn to the black market.
While commercial use has been banned, it is still legal to purchase sunbeds for personal use. Advertising of such services is popular in online classifieds and via social media. Several homeowners illegally operate solariums in their backyards. Operators risk fines of up to $44,000 under laws banning commercial use of tanning beds.
Additionally, solariums are still popular and legal in other countries. Australian travellers can easily access them while holidaying.
Dr Valente is shocked when interviewing new patients. One of the standard questions he asks is, “Have you ever used, or do you still use sunbeds?”. Surprisingly, sometimes his patients answer that they still use them and this happens more regularly than one would expect.
“Given that there has been a lot of media coverage in Australia on the associated risks of using sunbeds, I find it quite alarming that some people ignore the dangers and expose themselves to dangerous UV radiation,” explains Dr Valente.
Given all the health risks associated with the use of UV radiation exposure, Dr Valente stands firm in his advice that opting for artificial UV tanning machines like sunbeds should be avoided. Although the devices may continue to be available to the public, he is passionate about continuing to educate his patients of the associated risks.