Ad banned over claim sunbeds don’t raise cancer risk

The ASA ruled that adverts claiming 'there is no link' between sunbed use and cancer should be withdrawn. Picture: Getty
The ASA ruled that adverts claiming 'there is no link' between sunbed use and cancer should be withdrawn. Picture: Getty
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A SCOTTISH chain of tanning salons has been banned from producing adverts claiming there is no link between sunbeds and skin cancer.

Indigo Sun, which has more than 40 salons across the UK, told its customers about a university study which claimed there was no evidence of an increased risk of cancer from tanning beds.

The Stirling-based firm, owned by businessman Frank Taylor, produced leaflets about the report and highlighted it on its website in a section entitled “Fact and Fiction”.

However, campaign group Sunbed Ban UK complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who launched an investigation into the ads.

The watchdog have now banned the adverts and told Indigo Sun to stop “misleading” its clients with unsubstantiated claims.

On its website, Indigo Sun said: “A study from the UK shows: No link between tanning sessions and an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunbeds cause skin cancer – is this really the case? It is a widely held belief that the use of sunbeds increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

“But now a large-scale study carried out by the University of Leeds is showing how the opposite is in fact true… The study showed no evidence of a link between sunbed use and an elevated risk of skin cancer.”

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However, the ASA ruled that the research the firm used was actually a letter to a medical journal and said additional studies provided by the company had been taken out of context.

In a written ruling, the ASA said: “The ASA noted that the Leeds report, and the other studies provided, all focused specifically on melanoma, but not other types of skin cancer.

“We noted that malignant melanoma was the least common of the three main types of skin cancer, and considered that the studies did not relate to the claims made in the ad.

“The Leeds report was a discussion of several papers in the form of a letter to the editor of a journal.

“We identified limitations in the additional studies, some of which were acknowledged by the authors, which meant we were unable to draw firm conclusions from them.

“One of the studies stated that regular sunbed use was harmful in terms of developing non-melanoma skin cancers.

“We also understood that various UK organisations such as the NHS and Cancer Research UK advised that UV rays emitted from sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer, both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma.

“Given the lack of robust evidence, the limitations identified in the studies, the fact that they did not relate to the claims made in the ad, and the omission of information about official advice that contradicted the claims, we concluded that the claims in the ad had not been substantiated and were misleading.”

Indigo Sun said its website posed the question of whether there was a link between sunbed tanning and an increased risk of skin cancer and that the ad merely put forward the case that there was no link based on the report by the University of Leeds.

It said the claim was made based on many previous large-scale studies which came to the same conclusion.

In 2012, complaints by the Scottish Government that another set of leaflets produced by Indigo Sun were misleading were rejected by the ASA.

Ministers said the tanning centre’s claim that sunbeds were a good source of vitamin D was irresponsible.

Cases of malignant melanoma in Scotland have leapt more than 50 per cent in ten years.

More than 1,200 cases are diagnosed and 11,000 Scots develop the less serious non-melanoma skin cancers every year.

Doctors and health campaigners believe the rise is partly fuelled by sunbeds.

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