Australia bans commercial sunbeds over cancer fears

PHOTO: Australia bans commercial sunbeds over cancer fears

SYDNEY - Most Australian states and territories are set to ban commercial sunbeds from Thursday, in a crackdown on artificial tanning in a country that has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

The ban - which comes into force in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and in the Australian Capital Territory on January 1 - will make Australia the second nation after Brazil to impose such a restriction, campaigners said.

Western Australia has said it would also implement a ban, though it has yet to announce a start date, while there are no commercial solariums in the only other part of Australia - the hot and humid Northern Territory.

"Queensland already has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and there is no question there's a direct link between regular sunbed use and the incidence of malignant melanoma," the state's interim Health Minister Mark McArdle told the Australian Associated Press.

Australia is sometimes referred to as the sunburnt country, where beaches are thronged with bathers basking under blue skies and the rates of melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, are the highest in the world.

Public health campaigners have long pushed to promote awareness of the dangers of exposure to the sun, urging people to wear sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. They have also warned that tanning on a sunbed is not safe.

The Cancer Council has said that two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70, with the incidence of skin cancers about two to three times the rates in Canada, the United States and Britain.

More than 2000 Australians died from skin cancer in 2011 with the majority of deaths from melanoma, the council added.

Previous research suggested that the use of sunbeds by people aged 18 to 39 increases their risk of developing melanoma, the most common form of cancer among young Australians, by an average of 41 per cent.

The bans were supported by a majority of Australians, the council said, in a recent survey of 6,300 people, while fewer adults and youths said they had used a solarium in the past year.

About one per cent of adults and 0.3 per cent of youths used a sunbed, the data showed, down from 2.2 per cent and 1.2 per cent a decade ago.

Several European countries and American states have also banned the use of sunbeds by minors, according to research published in the journal Nature.