A Scottish cancer expert says private sunbed salons should operate under strict licensing arrangements to protect young Scots from doing untold damage to their skin.

Addressing a fringe event on cancer awareness at the SNP conference this week, Professor Elaine Rankin, Cancer Research UK Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Dundee will support the recent proposals for a Sunbed Licensing Bill.

The Bill would introduce compulsory powers for councils to license sunbed salons only to salon owners who adhere to a strict code of health practice. This code could involve only allowing people over the age of 18 who are aware of the risks to use sunbeds.

The Private Members Bill, proposed by Ken Macintosh MSP, has received backing from the Royal Environmental Health Officers of Scotland as well as the support of 17 MSPs in the Cross Party Group on Cancer in the Scottish Parliament.

While the majority of Scottish councils have banned sunbeds in their own leisure centres for health reasons, they are not obliged to regulate private salons, which have been growing in number to the extent that there are more sunbeds per head in Scotland than in England.*

Professor Rankin, who has done pioneering clinical research on melanomas in Europe and is a member of the Scottish Melanoma Group, said: “Sunbed use is particularly worrying among the young because it is skin damage early in life that is most likely to result in skin cancer later on.

She adds “It has been established** that the risk of developing skin cancer increases by up to 20 per cent for every decade of sunbed use up to the age of 56. Discouraging sunbed use by the under18s is therefore particularly important.

“It is encouraging that Scotland is taking the lead in bringing forward enforced regulations for sunbed use.”

Professor Rankin believes that education as well as regulation is the best protection against skin cancer. This year Cancer Research UK launched its SunSmart Campaign, developed in partnership with the Scottish Executive and UK Department of Health.

The Campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of skin cancer and its symptoms with as wide an audience as possible, encouraging people to protect themselves and their children in the sun. The charity has plans for more activity in 2004, focusing on children, young people and their parents/carers.

Professor Rankin also called for the Scottish Executive to support the charity’s long term plans for public education and professional training for GPs in spotting skin cancer symptoms early. The SunSmart campaign hopes eventually to achieve similar results to the successful Australian sun awareness initiative, which has reduced skin cancer death rates and is beginning to see a reduction in incidence after 20 years of campaigning.

The charity is also encouraging people to get their moles checked for potentially malignant skin growths. On the Friday and Saturday of the SNP conference, Cancer Research UK Scotland is inviting delegates to have their moles checked by a skin specialist nurse, and pick up a limited edition Cancer Research UK toy mole.

The cute beanie moles can also be purchased by sending a cheque for £4.99 made payable to Cancer Research UK and a return address to:

The Public Affairs Team

Cancer Research UK

PO Box 123

London WC2A 3PX

More information about the SunSmart Campaign can be found on Cancer Research UK’s website

The charity’s work to raise the importance of cancer awareness on the health agenda at all the party conferences in Scotland this year has been made possible by a special educational grant and support from Lilly UK.


For more information please contact Cancer Research UK Scotland’s Public Affairs Officer, Lesley Conway, on 07775 917370, our the Public Affairs team on 020 7061 8360.


*According to the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland, August 2003

**Source: Bulman, A (1995), People are overusing sunbeds. British Medical Journal 310: 1327

SunSmart at the SNP Party Conference

Cancer Research UK Scotland’s MoleWatch Clinic runs from 10am – 5.30 pm on Friday 26 September and from 9.30am – 11.30 am on Saturday 27 September at the Cancer Research UK Scotland Stand in the Marquee. The charity is also running Clinics at the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences.

History of news about sunbed licensing and/or regulation:

  • Calls for regulation and licensing of sunbed salon premises first started in 2000 from the Health Education Board for Scotland (now called Health Scotland) and the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities, after a study by HEBS showed that there was no safe level for the use of sunbeds, particularly in unmanned premises.
  • In August 2003, the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland called on the Executive to tackle the “growing menace of unregulated sunbed parlours across Scotland.” On 29 August 2003 Ken Macintosh MSP launched his Private Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament on sunbed licensing.
  • On Monday 22 September, a spokesperson for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health called for local authorities in England and Wales to remove sunbeds from their leisure facilities. Jenny Morris’s comments came as the CIEH released guidance about skin protection and the use of sunbeds to councils.

About skin cancer and SunSmart:

Around 6,000 people a year in the UK and 600 people a year in Scotland are diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It usually develops in cells in the outer layer of the skin but can spread to other parts of the body.

The SunSmart campaign is supported by:

The UV Health Promotion Group whose members include the British Association of Dermatologists, National Radiological Protection Board, Skin Care Campaign, Wessex Cancer Trust, Health and Safety Executive and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Also backing the campaign are NIVEA Sun, Lloydspharmacy and Craghoppers Ltd.