Academics call for sunbed ban in bid to shrink cancer rates

  • 02/12/2016
  • By Lucy Warhurst
Researchers are calling for New Zealand to follow Australia's lead in banning all commercial sunbeds (AAP)

University of Otago researchers say banning sunbeds would help lower skin cancer rates and have little impact on jobs.

Researchers from the University's Cancer Society Behavioural Research Unit conducted a nationwide audit and found a ban would have a minimal effect on a very small number of businesses.

Results showed that in 92 percent of businesses with sunbeds - such as hairdressers, salons, gyms, and fitness centres - tanning services were supplementary to their other services, and nationwide only four were reliant on sunbeds as their sole source of income.

Researchers Bronwen McNoe and Tony Reeder are calling for New Zealand to follow Australia's lead in banning all commercial sunbeds.

But operators say they would be severely impacted. 

"Seventy percent of our business is from sunbeds - a ban could put us out of business," says Alicia Berridge manager of Auckland tanning salon Solaris.

She says they make sure they follow all of the safety rules and regulations and is concerned that a ban could push tanning underground.

"There would be no rules - that's when the danger sets in," says Ms Berridge.

It's not known how many skin cancers in New Zealand are caused by sunbeds, but in Australia it's estimated to be three percent.

Parliament passed a Bill earlier this year to make sunbeds R18, but Mrs McNoe says that doesn't go far enough.

"While this country has restricted access to sunbeds to those aged over 18 years of age, the scientific evidence clearly shows that there is no safe level of sunbed use for individuals of any age," says Mrs McNoe.

"The costs to society of treating skin cancer and the impact of skin cancer deaths far exceed the rights of an individual to temporarily change the colour of their skin for purely cosmetic purposes, particularly when alternative, less dangerous methods such as spray tanning exist."

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the information from the study will assist it in further advice, but there was no hint of a ban being implemented any time soon.

"The Ministry believes efforts to reduce the harm from melanoma and skin cancer by restricting the age of use of suntanning beds is a very good step," says Manager Environmental and Border Health Sally Gilbert.

The research was funded by The Cancer Society and the findings are published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.


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