Sunbeds have been put in the highest cancer risk category by the international body charged with evaluating potential cancer hazards.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer is tasked by the World Health Organisation with listing and reviewing causes of cancer. Its just-released review of ionising and solar radiation puts sunbeds in the highest cancer risk category: Group 1 – “carcinogenic to humans”.
“We can now say unequivocally that artificial sources of solar radiation – including ultraviolet (UV)-emitting tanning devices – can cause both skin and eye melanomas,” says University of Sydney Professor of Public Health Bruce Armstrong, who sat on the IARC working group reviewing ionising and solar radiation.
“Solar and ultraviolet radiation were last reviewed in 1992. At that time the IARC found solar radiation caused cancer but evidence wasn’t sufficient to conclude that artificial sources of UV rays were carcinogenic.
“Evidence considered in the latest review – much of which wasn’t available in 1992 – found using UV-emitting tanning devices increases a person’s risk of developing skin melanomas by about 15 per cent overall, and by about 75 per cent for those who used them when they were younger than 30.
“The IARC has confirmed what many Australians have long suspected: tanning devices emitting ultraviolet rays are dangerous and can cause cancer.”
In other findings, the working group found substantial evidence that arc welding caused ocular melanoma.
“Because welders are exposed to other harmful agents such as fumes we couldn’t conclusively say UV radiation from arc welding causes melanomas of the eye,” Professor Armstrong says. “The working group has urged a full review of the carcinogenic hazards of welding.”
All sources of ionising radiation have also been put into the IARC’s Group 1 category. These include radon gas (the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke), plutonium, radium, phosphorous-32 and radioiodines.
The findings are revealed in a Special Report in the August edition of The Lancet Oncology, produced by Dr Fatiha El Ghissassi and her colleagues, IARC, Lyon, France, on behalf of the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group.