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Camden students launch campaign to warn girls of sunbed dangers

16:55 10 March 2014

Hayley Omar and Emmy Thittanond saying No to sunbeds in Camden Town 04.03.14.

Hayley Omar and Emmy Thittanond saying No to sunbeds in Camden Town 04.03.14.

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Two Camden students are urging young women to say “no” to sunbeds after they discovered nearly half of their university friends use them to achieve the perfect tan.

Emmy Thittanond, 23, and Hayley Omar, 22, have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of sunbeds among regular tanners, most often young women.

As part of a university project, the pair interviewed more than 200 fellow students, all women aged between 18 and 25, at the University of Westminster and found that 44 per cent use sunbeds.

A quarter of them also use the tanning machines at least once a month. Using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases the risk of skin cancer by 59 per cent, according to Cancer Research UK.

“When we did the survey, I didn’t realise that so many girls had used a sunbed,” said Miss Thittanond, of Broomsleigh Street, West Hampstead.

“I didn’t think it was as big in London as it was in Liverpool, or Nottingham or Essex. I used to be a sunbed user myself but I started doing research into it and now I’m scared to go back to them ever again.

“Women don’t know about the dangers unless they look into the details, otherwise they will tend to overlook the dangers.”

More than 250,000 11-to-17-year-olds in England have used a sunbed, despite a ban on under-18s using them.

Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is the second most common cancer in young people between the age of 15 and 34.

Miss Omar, an international student from Brunei who lives in Primrose Hill, said women felt under pressure to get a tan because of the saturation in the media of photos of sun-kissed celebrities.

“I think it’s all because of the influence and pressures from the media and from Hollywood,” she said. “I would say to women, be comfortable in your own skin. We are all made to be different and we are all pretty in our own way.”

But Marina Portou, co-owner of Tantalise tanning salon, Camden Town, said that sunbed use is not dangerous in moderation and even has its health benefits.

“People always talk about what’s bad, but with sunbeds, you get Vitamin D.

“What people don’t know is that it takes 72 hours for [skin pigment] melanin to reach your skin so some go in for 12 minutes and come out all lobster-fied.

“When people come in, I always ask them, when was the last time they were in the sun, and if they are pale, they start off with minimum minutes.”

A spokesman for The Sunbed Association, which represents UK tanning facilities, said: “There seems to be an accepted assumption that using a sunbed will significantly increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

“Independent scientific analysis of this data source irrefutably clarifies that any increased risk is associated with medical use UV equipment – at a staggering 96 per cent – and to a much lesser degree home use equipment, but not with professional sunbeds.”

But Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer Research UK urges people not to use sunbeds for cosmetic reasons.

“If you really want a tan, it’s better to fake it from a bottle than to spend time out in the sun or under a sunbed.”

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