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'Sunbeds are killing machines' says MP fighting to ban them

A Derbyshire MP is calling for sunbeds to be banned in the UK Credit: PA

A Derbyshire MP, who developed skin cancer, says sunbeds are 'killing machines' and should be banned.

Pauline Latham spoke about the discovery of her own malignant mole and the death of her brother from a melanoma as she urged the government to ban the commercial use and sale of sunbeds - adding that Brazil and Australia have already imposed commercial bans.

Speaking during her Westminster Hall debate, Mrs Latham said: "I'd like to go as far as calling for a ban. Who needs sunbeds? No-one. But many people in the UK believe they look healthier with a tan, but it couldn't be further from the truth."

The NHS states that sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays that increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday tropical sun and the NHS says that evidence shows that people who are frequently exposed to UV rays before the age of 25 are at greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life. It also says that sunburn in childhood can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

However, the Sunbed Association says new legislation has now made sunbed use safer and it argues that the NHS advice is outdated.

Skin damage from UV rays can take up to 20 years to appear. Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma BCCs are more likely to develop on skin that is regularly exposed to the sun, especially on the face, head and neck. They include moles or lumps that may be:

  • smooth and pearly
  • look waxy
  • appear as a firm, red lump or may look sunken in the middle
  • appear as a pearly brown or black lump if you have darker skin
  • feel itchy and bleed sometimes
  • develop a crust or scab
  • begin to heal but never completely heal
  • look like a flat, red spot that is scaly and crusty
  • look like a pale non-healing scar
  • develop into a painless ulcer.

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma SCCs usually develop in areas that have been damaged by sun exposure. In people with pale skin, they are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs.

In people with darker or black skin, SCCs are more likely to affect areas that have less or no sun exposure. These include the lower legs, torso, genitals or areas where there has been long-term scarring, for example after a burn.

SCCs may:

  • look scaly
  • have a hard, crusty scab
  • look pink or red
  • make the skin raised in the area of the cancer
  • feel tender to touch
  • bleed sometimes.

What to do if you notice skin changes:

The Macmillan cancer support charity says if you notice anything unusual on your skin that does not go away after four weeks, show it to your doctor. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual so you can check for any changes. Remember that there are many other skin conditions that are not cancer, especially in older people.

It can be more difficult to notice changes if you have darker skin. This is because symptoms of skin cancer can be less obvious than those for people with paler skin. If you notice any changes, or develop a sore that does not heal, speak to your doctor.