UV radiation from sunbeds can cause serious burns
Rob Hall is an Environmental Health Officer for Bury Council in Greater Manchester, with more than 10 years’ experience.
The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 – introduced after lengthy parliamentary debate and campaigning - makes it illegal for businesses to allow anyone under 18 to use sunbeds on their premises.
The laws were introduced because sunbeds dramatically increase the risk of skin cancer – including melanoma, the most serious form.
And the legislation is there to protect young people – who are most at risk – from forming a habit which can be dangerous in other ways too, as we’ll see below.
But the responsibility for making sure businesses toe the line lies with Environmental Health Officers like me, in each local authority. And earlier this year I secured the very first criminal conviction under the Act.
The story began in May 2012, when I received a complaint that a 15 year old girl had suffered burns all over her body after using a sunbed in a private gym.
She was hospitalised for 24 hours, placed on a drip and – due to the severity of her burns – was off school for 15 days.
We don’t yet know whether she’s experiencing any long-term physical or mental effects. But we do know she’s said it was the first and last time she would ever use a sunbed.
As NICE approves two new melanoma drugs, we look at how far we’ve come in developing ‘personalised’ cancer care.
This morning, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reversed its original, preliminary decisions over two cutting-edge ‘targeted’ melanoma treatments – ipilimumab and vemurafenib.
Both drugs will now be available on the NHS to suitable patients throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
(Scotland has its own drug approval body, the Scottish Medicines Consortium, which has so far given a ‘no’ to both drugs)
This is great news. It turns out that the manufacturers of both drugs have now provided sufficient information, and set up suitable discount schemes, to allow the drugs to be considered value for money on the NHS – essential in these straitened times. We hope they’ll resubmit this information to the Scottish regulators as soon as possible.
But how does this fit into the bigger picture of targeted therapies and personalised medicine?
We thought that in the light of this news, and of some recent critical pieces in the mainstream media, we’d take a look at the state-of-play regarding what many consider to be a new ‘era’ of cancer treatment.
Researchers have finally pinned down the link between UV radiation and gene faults that drive melanoma. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
We all need a bit of sunshine in our lives – something that’s often lacking in the Great British Summer.
But while UV light (radiation) from the sun helps our bodies to make vitamin D, which is vital for building healthy bones, there’s a dark side to UV. It damages our DNA – the genetic ‘instruction manual’ in all our cells – which increases the risk of skin cancer.
Researchers have shown that eight out of 10 cases of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – are caused by getting too much UV, either from the sun or sunbeds. There’s also good evidence from population studies to show that getting sunburned at any age doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life, and people who have the highest levels of UV exposure also have a higher skin cancer risk.
But up until now, there’s been an inconvenient problem for researchers studying precisely how UV-induced DNA damage leads to skin cancer: the major gene faults known to be involved in melanoma don’t actually show the hallmarks of UV damage. And because UV can cause such widespread damage throughout our genome, it’s been hard to pin down exactly which other genes might be involved in the disease.
Thanks to the advent of high-tech genome sequencing technology, this conundrum may have now been solved by two research teams in the US. Their results prove beyond doubt that UV-induced genetic damage can drive the development of melanoma, and highlight important new targets for future treatments for the disease.
Let’s take a closer look at what they found.
Sunbeds increase the risk of skin cancer
We’ve known that using sunbeds can cause skin cancer for several years.
And this week this message became louder and clearer than ever before with the publication of the strongest evidence yet of the link between the tanning devices and skin cancer.
In this post we’ll look at some of what we already knew about sunbeds and skin cancer, what this new study adds, and what we should be doing about it.