The dangers of tanning

Reporter: Jackie Quist

We have heard the warnings and we know the dangers yet tanning remains a fashion essential so how safe are fake tans?

Fashion commentator Melissa Hoyer said tanning is a national obsession."There is this funny mentality that we want to look sort of slim in our little racing dress or party dress so we automatically add a bit of a tan," she said.After a risk of skin cancer associated with solariums, spray tans in like never before.Ellina Shikhman's salon Tantrum can barely keep up with demand with spray tanning touted as the healthy way to look tanned.

"Spray tans have jumped through the roof," she said.The tanning agents renowned for a streak free finish are claimed to be safe but Dr Steve Hambleton from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) would like to see some evidence."The chemicals do get absorbed into the skin and if they're absorbed into a wide area it can be an enormous absorption," he said."I'm not aware of any tests that have been done on spray tan chemicals so if there are tests I'd like to hear about them."

Also worrying the AMA is the latest tanning fad of melanin injections.Untested and unlicenced, the drug increases the skin's pigment and is widely available if you know where to look."We know it's becoming much more widespread and some tanning salons are actually suggesting people get it, now this is a product which is a hormone," Dr Hambleton said."It has potent effects but it hasn't been tested and we don't know what the side-effects may be, we don't know if it will make moles worse, if it'll make skin cancer worse."

Doctors are worried that beachgoers wanting the sun kissed look still believe in natural tanning despite Australia being ranked the world's skin cancer capital with 1700 deaths a year.Demand is strong for the ultimate quick tanning solution with tanning creams a hit-and-miss option, pills now hard to find and usually containing low doses of betacarotene, giving the skin an orange hue.

Cancer Council CEO Professor Ian Olver said there are no safe ways to get a tan."I'd like the fashion to change so that they didn't feel that they had to get a tan to look healthy or to look attractive and we think the natural pale look should become the fashion," he said."Clearly the safest form is some sort of spray on tan of all the methods available but we would discourage that because we know that people think that it protects them from the sun and it simply doesn't."

Related links

Australian Medical Association

Cancer Council