One in ten doctors admits using sunbeds

DOCTORS in the UK are ignoring medical advice by using sunbeds and increasing their risk of skin cancer, new 
research suggests.

The beds are said to increase risk of cancer. Picture: JP
The beds are said to increase risk of cancer. Picture: JP

A study, due to be presented at a conference in Edinburgh this week, found that many medics were taking part in activities that increased the dangers of skin cancer, despite repeated high-profile campaigns in recent years warning people to be safe in the sun. The researchers said sun safety advice needed to be made more widely available to medical professionals.

The new survey of 163 doctors, being presented at the World Congress of Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh, showed one in ten doctors admitted using sunbeds, despite the well-documented link between skin cancer and sunbeds.

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In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, classified sunbeds as a “Group 1 carcinogen” – meaning it can cause cancer in humans – the same classification as given to tobacco.

The researchers, from NHS trusts in Birmingham and Carlisle, said the findings reflected similar trends to previous research in the general public, with female doctors reporting more frequent sun-protective behaviours, such as using sun cream and staying in the shade, compared to male colleagues.

But despite their caution, women were still more likely to have more than one incidence of sunburn a year than men.

The researchers also found that only one in three doctors has performed self examination of their skin in the last 12 months, despite recommendations from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) to check skin monthly for possible signs of cancer.

A similar survey conducted by BAD in 2013 showed that ordinary members of the public check their skin more frequently, with only 43 per cent of the general public – compared with 65 per cent of doctors in this latest study – responding that they do not examine their skin for signs for skin cancer.

Researcher Dr Jingyuan Xu said: “The attitudes and behaviours of doctors don’t just impact on their own wellbeing, but can have an influence on how these messages are relayed to patients and the wider public.

“It’s very important that people are aware that ultraviolet radiation from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, and that they understand the benefits of enjoying the sun safely.”

Matthew Gass, from BAD, said: “Most people enjoy spending time in the sun to one degree or another. However, it’s important to enjoy the sun responsibly, taking necessary precautions and avoiding getting sunburnt.

“It’s disappointing that some doctors are not following the advice that they should be passing on to others.

“Particularly worrying is the fact that 10 per cent of those questioned admitted to using sunbeds. We would hope by now that most doctors would recognise that if you are looking to get a tan, it’s much safer to get it from a bottle.”

Malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, affects more than 13,000 in the UK each year, with 2,200 deaths.