Tanning Beds May Raise Skin Cancer Risk, European Union Warns

European Union experts warned Thursday sunbeds and tanning lamps may increase the risk of skin cancer, and advised against their use by children and other people at high risk.

"We need to act rapidly in order to raise public awareness of the risks associated with sunbeds," EU Public Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said.

"I am concerned that indiscriminate use of these tanning devices for cosmetic purposes could lead to an increased incidence of skin-cancers."

Sunbeds and tanning lamps are not a harmless alternative to natural sunlight, said the 43-page report of the EU's Scientific committee on Consumer Products.

It gave no EU-wide figures, but officials said that in Britain alone that some 100 people a year are believed to die from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunbeds and tanning lamps.

Kyrprianou said the EU would consider legislating a limit to the radiation power of these devices and stricter labeling.

Sunbeds used in tanning salons use the more powerful UV-B type of radiation.

The EU report said that people under 18 and those with pale skin, freckles or a family history of skin cancer should not use sunbeds.

Ireland last month said it would ban the use of sunbeds by people aged 15 and younger as part of a new plan to reduce the country's cancer rate. Authorities in Nordic nations last year advised against the use of sunbeds, particularly for young people.

The report said since "tanning devices were not in widespread use before the 1990s ... the full health effects of their use are not yet known."

"It will take several years before the real picture of the role of the UVR tanning devices in inducing skin cancer becomes fully apparent," it said. "This is due to the long induction period of the cancer."

But it concluded that based on available evidence, "the use of UVR tanning devices to achieve and maintain cosmetic tanning ... is likely to increase the risk of malignant" skin cancer.

The risk "seems to be particularly high when using sunbeds at a young age. Thus UVR tanning devices should not be used by individuals under the age of 18 years," said the report.