Dying for a tan

An alarming quarter of a million 11 to 17-year-olds in England are risking skin cancer by using sunbeds, according to Cancer Research UK, raising the very real possibility that we have a generation of young people literally dying for a tan.

The government-funded study of more than 9,000 children found 6% had used a sunbed and in some areas of the country a whopping 40% of teenagers used them every week.

OK - the fact that 51% and 48% of 15 to 17-year-old girls in Liverpool and Sunderland respectively have used sunbeds might not be too much of a stretch - even though it's a blatant case of scientific research reinforcing cultural and geographical stereotypes. But, 23% of sunbedding children and teenagers also appear to be using sunbeds at home - completely without supervision.

Isn't that just a little bit odd? Fake tanning as a children's leisure activity? Have your tea, do your homework, watch yet another Friends re-run on E4 and spend an hour chilling and grilling on your sunbed?

Justine Sheils, a 37-year-old administrator from Liverpool, began using sunbeds when she was 15 and was diagnosed with malignant melanoma five years ago. Quoted on the BBC News website, she says,

"I see girls of 14 or 15 in their school uniforms going into that same salon I used to use and they come out looking like lobsters..."

The real issue here is that we have a generation of young women who are willing to sacrifice their well being in the (highly questionable) pursuit of looking good. What can we do to stop it?