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Nation switches off solariums

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Commercial sunbeds are set to be banned virtually nationwide by 2015 after Queensland and Western Australia indicated they would join other states and territories in outlawing commercial solariums.

In a move welcomed by doctors and anti-cancer groups, Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and WA Health Minister Dr Kim Hames last month announced that their governments were moving to prohibit commercial UV tanning products, bringing them into line with similar measures in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Mr Springborg said his State had not issued any new licences for commercial sunbeds since late last year, and Queensland’s 44 existing licensed operators have been given 14 months’ notice of a full ban, to come into effect from December 31, 2014.

In WA, Dr Hames told Fairfax radio he was formulating a similar policy that would be presented to State Cabinet within three months.

“I have to take it to Cabinet, but if it happens it will happen in the next three months,” Dr Hames said. “There is no doubt about the increased risk of cancer – so I think the chances are [a ban in WA] won’t be far away.”

The moves mean that soon the Northern Territory will be the only jurisdiction in Australia where commercial solariums and sunbeds are not banned.

The dangers of using sunbeds and solariums have been known for more than 10 years.

In 2000, the US Department of Health listed solariums as a known human carcinogen linked to malignant melanoma of the skin and eye.

A systematic review of research on the link between skin cancer and solarium use, published in the British Medical Journal last year, concluded any sunbed use increased the risk of melanoma by 20 per cent, and raised it by three times that amount of the exposure was before 35 years of age. Furthermore, the risk increased with each sunbed session.

The Cancer Council has warned that “solariums are not a safe way to tan, and can result in serious damage to your skin”.

“Just like the sun, solariums emit UVA and UVB radiation, which can damage skin and cause skin cancer. UV radiation from solariums can be just as intense, if not more so, than natural light,” it said.

The health risks associated issue of solariums gained national prominence in 2007 when 26-year-old Clare Oliver, suffering end-stage melanoma, delivered a heartfelt public warning on the made an advertisement warning of the dangers of tanning, including through the use of commercial sunbeds.

The following year, the Victorian Government introduced laws to regulate the industry before moving to a full ban, to take effect from 31 December next year.

Adrian Rollins