The Port Elizabeth woman used sunbeds several times as a teenager and in her 30s, not knowing that in 2009 they would be listed as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
They are now banned in 44 countries, according to the World Health Organisation, and a team from the Medical Research Council says SA should follow suit.
Writing in the December issue of the SA Medical Journal, they say: “A ban on sunbeds is probably the best way forward for SA, although it will not be a simple process.
“We could also consider additional taxes for tanning sessions, such as those placed on tobacco and recently sugar, to drive down demand.”
One of the study’s authors, public health scientist Caradee Wright from the MRC environment and health research unit, said sunbeds were unregulated and operators tended to ignore the Consumer Protection Act when it came to false advertising and overstating perceived benefits, such as “sunbeds condition skin before going outdoors in summer”.
Wright said sunbed use was widespread, especially among white women from Gauteng who went for sessions before summer holidays at the coast, and among teenagers wanting to look tanned at matric dances.
“We have a sense that this is one of the key risk factors among Caucasian people for melanoma, particularly among women,” she said. “It’s like sun exposure but it’s even more intense. That needs to be known is South Africa.”