Thursday, August 23, 2007

Solariums cause skin cancer

The battle to convince young people in particular about the dangers of tanning appears to be a losing one.

According to the Peter MacCallum Hospital, melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the 15 to 30 age group and increasingly it is being linked in part to a veritable explosion in the number of outlets being opened by the unregulated solarium industry.

Melanoma victim Clare Oliver's most precious wish is to live long enough to see her 26th birthday next weekend.

"Here I am, 25 and I've been told that I've got only a few weeks to live and I don't think anything - you know, solariums, looking good, having a golden tan - is worth that," she said.

"I was a 22-year-old, just graduated from uni, and just got into the work force and, yeah, it was all great and then suddenly my world came crashing down. I was told I had cancer."

Ms Oliver is the only child of single parent Priscilla Lau Oliver, who maintains a constant vigil by her daughter's bedside.

Ms Oliver was diagnosed with a melanoma four years ago and now in the final days of her life, wants to give young people this warning about solariums.

"I'd much rather be pale, have my life and be able to travel the world again, and go out and work and do what normal 25-year-olds do," she said.

"In one week and a bit it's my 26th birthday and I sit here and I don't even know whether I'm going to make that."

Melanoma is now the most common form of cancer amongst the 15 to 30-year-old age group.

'Solariums are dangerous'

Associate Professor Grant McArthur, from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, says it is possible this figure is linked to the rapidly growing solarium industry.

"What is very clear is that solariums are dangerous," he said.

"They deliver five times the dose of UV radiation than the midday sun. They are also clearly linked to increased rates of skin cancer.

"So we believe solariums are dangerous and should be avoided."

Yet, new solariums are opening everywhere. Nationwide there's been a 300 per cent increase in the last decade, and Melbourne has taken to them even more enthusiastically.

Ms Oliver says having a tan is embedded in the Australian culture.

"That golden tan ... it sort of symbolises health, it symbolises just being a beautiful girl," she said.

She was one user to take advantage of a package deal - 20 visits at a cheaper price - and says she followed the advice of the solarium staff, attending every second day.

"I didn't really know the risks I was exposing myself to," she said.

"Two years after that I soon found that I had melanoma in my lymph nodes, in my left ... armpit."

No comments: