In light of various studies that link UV exposure produced by indoor tanning beds to skin cancer, Australia is close to implementing a nationwide ban on tanning beds. Australia will join Brazil as the only countries to outlaw sun beds on a federal level once the state of Western Australia passes the ban.
"There's not lots of them, there's no big downside for them to stop because most of them have other businesses," Health Minister Kim Hames told ABC Online. "And, I think given every other state and territory has done it, it's probably right we follow suit."
The Australian government successfully outlawed the use of indoor tanning beds by people under the age of 18 back in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, the United Kingdom, Germany, Scotland, France, and some Canadian provinces have also banned minors from using tanning beds.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every three cancer diagnoses is skin cancer. Just over two million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancer diagnoses are made each year around the world. Tanning devices were elevated to the highest cancer risk category, “carcinogenic to humans,” in July 2009 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
A recent review of 19 international studies determined that, across all age groups, the use of tanning beds increases the risk of developing melanoma by 15 percent. Melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and its main risk factors include exposure to artificial UV radiation. Over 1,500 people in Australia die from melanoma each year, Melanoma Institute Australia reports.
As tanning bed use on a worldwide scale has increased starting in the 1990s, so has its level of danger. Lamps used in tanning beds have been tailored to emit higher levels of UVB radiation to copy exposure produced by the sun. The WHO recently categorized UVB radiation as a class 1 carcinogen, the same level as cigarettes and asbestos.
In conjunction with several other international agencies, the WHO launched a Global UV project, known as INTERSUN, with the purpose of reducing the number of skin cancer diagnoses related to UV radiation. INTERSUN identifies the risks associated with UV exposure and provides appropriate steps for avoiding exposure through recommendations and guidelines.