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Sunbed Scandal in York

sun bed

12:00am 29th August 2012

City of York Council has been working with local businesses to raise awareness of new legislation, which restricts selling sunbed sessions to over-18s only.

With a 14 year old volunteer 'mystery shopper', officers from the council's Environmental Health and Trading Standards Service visited 11 premises in the City of York Council area and found nearly a third offered sunbed sessions to the underage person.

Since April 2011, the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 requires businesses to prevent persons aged under 18 from using their sunbeds in order to protect them from the risks associated with exposure to ultraviolet light which can contribute to the increased incidence of skin cancer. If a person under 18 years of age is allowed to use, or is offered the use of a sunbed, the business owner is committing a criminal offence, regardless of whether they intended this to happen and, if found guilty, the owner could be fined up to £20,000.

As this is a relatively new piece of legislation, the test purchases were made to gather information on compliance and to serve as a warning to local sunbed businesses. Because of this, the council will not be taking enforcement action on this occasion.

Councillor Dafydd Williams, cabinet member for Crime and Stronger Communities, said:

"I am disappointed that 27 per cent of the premises tested contravened the sunbed legislation. However, further test purchases will take place if breaches of the legislation are found, and we will take formal enforcement action. I hope that these test purchases will raise awareness of the legislation and I urge businesses to operate an age verification policy to ensure that they do not sell sunbed sessions to people aged under 18."

Last year, test purchases to underage buyers were made in City of York Council's area. Then, alcohol was found to be sold in 1 in 73 premises and tobacco was sold in 1 in 30 premises and action was taken against both businesses.

Further Details from Nuffield Health

The difficulty of slowing the rise in skin cancer cases is revealed in a new study 

It shows many people in Yorkshire and Humberside to be unaware of the risks, failing to protect themselves, and unable to recognise potentially harmful symptoms. It also shows that men are significantly less able to identify signs of the disease which should prompt medical attention.

Nearly half of people in Yorkshire and Humberside (48%) believe their risk of skin cancer to be low or non existent.  Just over half (53%) said they thought that teenagers and young adults (16-24) were at risk of the disease, despite skin cancer being the most common cancer in this age group. 

The figures from a survey of 2086 by YouGov for Nuffield Health, the UK's largest health charity, also show:

  • Less than half (49%) of people questioned thought 55-64 year olds were at risk, despite recent figures showing rates of melanoma - the most deadly form of skin cancer - have trebled in the over 50s in the past 30 years.*
  • Just four in ten people (41%) know that over those aged 65+ are at risk - the highest risk age group for late stage melanoma*.

People in the region also struggle to recognise signs that should trigger a visit to a doctor, with 40% in Yorkshire and Humber 'not confident' they could identify potentially harmful symptoms.  However, statistics show that just over a third (35%) were actually able to identify five common symptoms*.  Nationally, men were significantly less able to do so - less than a third (27%), compared to more than four in ten (44%) of women. The figure dropped to just over a quarter (27%) of those aged 65+.   

The figures come as data from Nuffield Health's UK hospitals show a 16% rise in skin cancer cases among the young (16-34) since 2007.   

In the region, a sun tan is still considered a sign of health and wellbeing, with half (50%) of people surveyed saying they look healthier and 20% saying they look more attractive with one.  More than one in ten (12%) people admitted to 'binge sunbathing', saying they take every possible opportunity to spend time in the sun.  

Experts say repeated sunburn significantly increases the risk of skin cancer later in life, but despite this, more than a quarter of people in Yorkshire and the Humber (28%) say they burn once a year or more. Despite this, a fifth (20%) of people said they never use sun cream in the UK; nearly one in five (18%) said it is too much hassle and for 16% of people in the region it is too expensive to use more frequently. However, three quarters (76%) of those who expose themselves to the sun or sun beds said they would reconsider if they believed they were at risk, suggesting further public awareness campaigns are necessary.

Mr Paul Banwell, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Nuffield Health, said:  

"There is an inherent naivety In the UK about the risks of skin cancer, believing they are not at risk or that it affects other people; this is an absolute myth. While people are acutely aware of the risks of smoking or drinking, with sun awareness it's just not the case. Because we live in a relatively cool climate, skin cancer awareness and skin checks are not part of our education. This should be addressed as a priority as Treating teenagers and young adults for melanoma is sadly becoming commonplace."

Dr Walayat Hussain, Consultant Dermatologist & Dermatological Surgeon at Nuffield Health Leeds, said:

"Skin cancer can affect anyone at any time and can be a particularly aggressive disease. Unfortunately, awareness is generally low, so that by the time a patient is referred they may have been living with the disease, undiagnosed for some time.  A skin check by a specialist Consultant Dermatologist is painless and quick and should be part of the routine of anyone who spends lots of time outside.  Being familiar with what's on your skin means you will notice any small changes and seek early treatment if necessary."

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