HEALTH

People Are Still Running 'Deadly Cancer Machines' On The Black Market

The secret world of suburban solariums is dwindling, but not fast enough.

23/09/2016 10:05 AM AEST | Updated September 23, 2016 10:06
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high angle view of a woman lying in a tanning machine

A couple running four black market solariums in their home have become the first Victorians to be prosecuted since tanning beds were banned in 2015.

Clare and Jason Zahra were fined $68,500 for the operation, which was uncovered by undercover officers with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said it should act as a warning to outlaw salons pedaling "deadly cancer machines".

"Any person or organisation who tries to go underground should expect to feel the full force of the law, and people thinking of using a backyard solarium should do so at their own peril," Hennessy said.

Yet search 'solarium' in Gumtree or eBay and you'll find a small community of people offering and seeking solariums in Victoria and across Australia without offering specific addresses or phone numbers.

Why are solariums worse for you than the sun?

A solarium can emit levels of ultraviolet radiation up to six times stronger than the summer sun at its peak.

When operating, solariums were estimated to cause 281 new melanoma cases, 43 melanoma-related deaths and 2,572 new cases of squamous cell carcinomas in Australia each year.

Souce: Cancer Council Victoria

Cancer Council Victoria prevention director Craig Sinclair has been monitoring black market solarium ads since 2012 and said the ban caused an initial spike in ads for covert solarium salons but it's since died off to a murmur.

The research, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, found advertisements declined from a peak of 115 sunbeds advertised in May 2014 before the ban to 50 or less each month from February 2015 after the ban.

Gumtree requests from Victorians seeking solariums meanwhile increased from isolated instances before the ban, to up to 77 per month after the ban came into effect.

Getty Images
There's nothing healthy about a tan.

Sinclair told The Huffington Post Australia that while solariums hadn't entirely disappeared, any black market was not thriving.

"The global solarium industry were watching Australia's ban closely and there were warnings that itwould lead to a black market boom in solariums -- this research is the first of it's kind to see what effect the ban had," Sinclair said.

"Victorians are clearly finding it hard to access solariums and this will only become harder now that all Australian states have similar bans in place.

"These commercial sunbeds needed to be maintained and monitored. To go to someone's backyard and strip down into one is really very unsafe.

"You increase your risk of cancer every time you use these machines.

"It is just not worth the cost to you or your loved ones."

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