Campaign warns that sunbeds are a surefire way to age your skin

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Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, supported by the Public Health Agency (PHA), is warning that sunbeds are a surefire way to damage and age your skin.

The alert comes at the start of a new poster, social media and radio campaign - using the hashtag #theuglyside - highlighting the dangers of sunbed use, particularly for young people.

Research shows that using a sunbed can increase your chances of developing skin cancer, and starting sunbed use before the age of 35 can double that risk.

Backing the campaign is Tracey Hall, director of Belfast-based Style Academy Model Agency, who said: “Sunbeds were a craze when I was a teenager, with tanning studios popping up on every street corner, but I am proud to say that I have never used one.

“I encourage all my models to avoid sunbeds as they dry out your skin, cause premature ageing and wrinkles, can often burn, and are extremely carcinogenic. I firmly believe sunbed use is skin abuse.”

Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Coordinator from Cancer Focus NI, said: “It is vitally important that everyone is aware of the risk they run by using sunbeds.

“Modern sunbeds work by exposing the skin to concentrated doses of ultraviolet (UV) radiation over a matter of minutes. Powerful tanning units may be 10 to 15 times stronger than the midday sun in the Mediterranean.”

She added: “As well as risking skin cancer, young people using sunbeds are also speeding up ageing of their skin and risking eye damage. While people under the age of 18 are legally not allowed to use sunbeds, they may have access to sunbeds owned or rented by family and/or friends, which should be discouraged. Remember, there is no safe level of sunbed use for cosmetic purposes.”

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “Young people who are frequent users of sunbeds are at particular risk, but even occasional use may lead to cancer, premature aging and eye damage.

“I hope that this campaign will encourage sunbed users to stop, and prevent others from starting. If you are concerned about skin cancer, for example a mole that has changed in shape, size or colour, you should talk to your GP. Early detection of skin cancer can significantly improve survival so regularly checking your skin is important.”

If you are concerned about any aspect of cancer call the Cancer Focus NI free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on helpline@cancerfocusni.org You can also visit the websites www.becancerawareni.info, www.cancerfocusni.org or www.careinthesun.org