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By Mark Carter
My name is Mark Carter I am aged 56 and live in North Lincolnshire with my lovely wife Liz and 3 Cats, we have been happily married for 29 years.
I am a stage 4 Malignant Melanoma Survivor and am currently stable, but my long term prognosis is poor as there is currently no effective cure for the disease and current treatments only prolong life, although great strides are being made in the field of new targeted therapies.
I now devote most of my time to raising awareness of the risk factors and causes of Melanoma and set up a website in February 2013 called Sunbedban .co.uk with this in mind.
Malignant Melanoma is almost an almost entirely preventable disease and I believe that there is far too little education about about the risk factors. People only need to make a few simple lifestyle changes by including a sun safety regimen into their daily lives and avoiding over exposure to UV light from the sun and artificial sources such as sunbeds to make all the difference.
I have never deliberately gone out of my way to acquire a tan and have never used a commercial sunbed. I attribute my melanoma diagnosis to excessive sun exposure in my youth when I served in the Merchant Navy and worked in many tropical climates. Unfortunately I was ignorant of the dangers back then as there was little awareness but even today too many people are still unaware of how dangerous excessive UV exposure can be and the cumulative damage at a cellular level that can build up over time.
Skin Cancer rates are increasing faster than any other cancer in the UK, with figures doubling every 10-20 years. More than 11,500 cases of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease are diagnosed every year in the UK and over 2,500 will die from the disease this year alone.
The main focus of my awareness campaign is sunbeds, as I believe that due to ignorance and miss-information about the dubious health benefits of using them perpetrated by the Tanning Industry many people still believe that they are part of a healthy lifestyle and this is far from the case.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has moved Ultra-Violet emitting tanning beds to it's highest cancer risk category and labeled them as carcinogenic to humans.
Commercial Sunbeds emit ultraviolet (UV) rays that increase your risk of developing skin cancer both malignant and non-malignant and recent research has shown that many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday Mediterranean sun.
There is some excellent information and advice on the Cancer Research UK website as part of their Sunsmart Campaign that dispels a lot of the myths about sunbed use and shows that they a far from being part of a healthy lifestyle choice.
In the UK every packet of Cigarettes carries a "Smoking Kills" warning, yet sunbeds don't despite being a class one carcinogenic product in the same category as asbestos and tobacco.
Melanoma is disproportionately high in young people. More than two young adults (aged 15 – 34) are diagnosed with melanoma every day in the UK and it is the second most common cancer in this age group.
Cancer Research UK estimate that at least 100 people in the UK die every year from sunbed related Melanoma. A ban on commercial sunbeds would save many lives from this horrible disease and would help curb the alarming rise in Melanoma incidence rates. Skin Cancer drugs are very expensive and a ban would also help save the NHS from the huge cost burden of skin cancer treatments.
Even tighter regulations on sunbed use. although a step in the right direction will not stop them from remaining lethal and will do little to stop them causing unnecessary deaths. In my opinion these facts alone should be enough for the UK government consider banning sunbeds A tan is simply not worth dying for.
Brazil banned sunbeds as soon as it became known that they were carcinogenic to humans and only last year Australia committed to a national ban due to come into force soon. To help combat the rise in melanoma incidence rates. Should the UK not be considering something similar I ask ?