By Nathan Morley
BRUSSELS, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- The French national health and safety watchdog ANSES has advised the government to ban electronic sunbeds and sunlamps to prevent people from developing the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Olivier Merckel, a leading expert at ANSES, says sunbed use is linked to an increase of melanoma risk in the population of tanning bed users in France and other countries.
"Figures evaluate to about 380 melanoma cases per year in the French population, due to sunbeds. It is estimated that it leads to between 20 and 80 deaths per year," Merckel told Xinhua in an interview.
According to Merckel, similar bans have been imposed somewhere in the world: "Some countries, for the same reasons, banned sunbeds like Australia and Brazil."
With the lure of the sunbed attracting mostly younger adults, commercial tanning salons were made off-limits to under-18s in France in 2013. Soon after, advertising for such businesses was banned on radio, TV and in newspapers.
"Sunbed use is linked to cultural behavior, some northern European countries, for example, practice a lot, especially Denmark, for example, which leads to an increase of melanoma cases since several years," Merckel explained.
"It has been the case also in Iceland when some years ago it became a common practice for young people to use tanning beds. A skin cancer epidemic arose, and started to regress when sufficient information campaigns were given," he added.
The World Health Organization advice on sunbeds categories in the highest-risk carcinogenic substances and habits, while skin doctors point out that there is no such thing as a healthy tan, especially one that comes from a tanning bed.
Merckel warned that sunbed use is linked to an increase of melanoma risk in the population of tanning bed users, in France and in many other countries.
"The level of evidence has been characterized by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) since 2009. Since several epidemiological studies brought new figures, for example, a 20 percent increased risk of melanoma for the overall population when people did only one tanning session in their life. The younger the exposure, the higher the risk. When one session is done before 35 years, the risk is 59 percent higher," explained the expert.
It seems that the message is starting to hit home among the French public, with the number of sunbed customers dropping by half in the last decade, according to the national union of tanning professionals in Paris.
However, public health experts continue to emphasize there is still much work to do.
"The number of tanning centers seems to diminish, but we recommend to public authorities to take every measure to cease exposure of the population to UVs from tanning beds, either personal devices that people can buy on the internet, and sunbeds in aesthetic centers," Merckel says.
"We hope that, in addition to our recommendation to public authorities, our message on risks like cancer, but also very quick skin aging, will be heard by people, especially younger people, not to start use of tanning beds. Some studies have shown that there could be a kind of addiction to sunbed use - that reinforces the need to inform on risks and stop exposure."
Over 14,000 cases of melanoma were recorded in France in 2015, of those 382 were linked to the use of sunbeds or UV lamps.
The union says 22,000 people currently work in the tanning industry, which has an annual turnover of over 200 million euros.