Solarium boom shocks skin cancer experts

Tuesday 3 April, 2007

Skin cancer experts are alarmed at new research that shows the number of solariums across Australia has risen by over 300% in the last decade. According to the Cancer Council Victoria study, Melbourne has significantly more solariums than any other capital city in Australia, accounting for over 40% of solariums in capital cities around the country.

The new figures published today in the Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health, show the number of solariums in Australian capital cities in 2006 had increased four fold compared to a decade earlier. In 1996, researchers found there were 97 solariums listed in the Yellow Pages for all capital cities in Australia, but by 2006 the number had multiplied to 406.

In Melbourne solarium numbers grew from 25 in 1996 to 169 in 2006 - a 576% increase in ten years. The study found Melbourne had nearly three times more solarium listings than Sydney.

Researchers at The Cancer Council Victoria's Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer say solarium numbers are likely to be even greater than their study indicates, as solariums located in beauty salons and fitness centers are not often listed in the Yellow Pages.

Associate Professor John Kelly, Director of the Victorian Melanoma Service at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, said a recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that using solariums regularly before the age of 35 boosted the risk of melanoma by 75%.

"This increase in solariums is particularly alarming in light of the overwhelming evidence linking solarium use and the risk of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer for those who use solariums before the age of 35."

"The simple fact is that people who use solariums are increasing their risk of skin cancer, and skin cancer kills over 1500 Australians every year."

SunSmart Manager Kylie Strong said the alarming increase in solarium numbers in Melbourne highlighted the need for regulation of the solarium industry which is currently only regulated by a voluntary code.

"This dramatic increase in solarium numbers is a real cause for concern. We don't want to see this boom in solariums numbers have an impact on skin cancer rates."

"Contrary to popular misconceptions, solariums are not a ‘safer' way to tan - in fact solariums emit ultraviolet radiation that can be up to five times as strong as the midday sun."

 "We support the conclusion of the study authors, that there is a pressing need for government regulation of the solarium industry."

"Legislation is already in place in many parts of the United States and Europe: it's extraordinary that Australia, which has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, is lagging behind in regulation of this industry which is proven to increase people's skin cancer risk."

"Studies in four Australian states show that the current voluntary standard for solariums is not working - for example, there is low compliance in restricting solarium access to those under 18."

"It is likely that until the solarium industry is regulated, and until people begin to understand the impact tanning has on their skin, more preventable skin cancers will be diagnosed."

"In Victoria, over 300 people die from skin cancer each year. I would urge anyone using a solarium to consider if having a tan is worth the risk of getting cancer."

Solarium/tanning centre Yellow Pages listings by Australian capital cities - 1996 compared to 2006

State

Number listed in 1996

Number listed in 2006

% increase since 1996

Melbourne

25

169

576%

Perth

5

55

1000%

Canberra

4

21

425%

Adelaide

12

39

225%

Brisbane

15

47

213%

Sydney

29

63

117%

Hobart

7

12

71%

Northern Territory

0

0

0

All capital cities

97

406

319%

Ends

The increase in solariums in Australia - 1996-2006' appears in the April issue of the Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health. A PDF copy of the research is available.

Available for interview:

  • Kylie Strong, SunSmart
  • Associate Professor John Kelly, Dermatologist

To arrange interviews please contact Zoe Furman on 0408 176 934.

Skin cancer statistics

  • Most recent figures from The Cancer Council Victoria show 1959 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2004, and 325 Victorians died from melanoma and other skin cancers.

Voluntary Australian standard for the solarium industry

Under the current voluntary standard, solarium operators must

  • Provide a consent form to solarium users that they must read and sign, outlining the risks of solarium use
  • Complete a skin assessment of all customers
  • Have a signed parental consent form for all customers under 18
  • Ban anyone under 15 from using a solarium
  • Ban people with very fair skin from using a solarium
  • Train staff in carrying out skin checks and implementing the standard
  • Not promote solariums as a ‘safe' or ‘healthy' way to tan
  • Provide protective eye goggles
  • Maintain strict hygiene and maintenance controls.