A quarter of a million children in England aged 11 to 17 face a higher risk of developing malignant skin cancer by using tanning beds, researchers said Friday.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the researchers called for urgent legislation to stop sunbed use by minors in England, as is already the case for Scotland and Wales.
The risk of melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, increases by 75 percent when use of tanning devices before the age of 30, according to a study published earlier this year in Britain's The Lancet Oncology.
In July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) placed tanning beds alongside cigarettes and asbestos as a top-level cancer threat.
Current rates of use in England "would lead to more than an estimated quarter of a million 11- to 17-year-olds being put at risk of developing malignant melanoma," wrote Catherine Thomson from Cancer Research UK and Professor Chris Twelves from St James's University Hospital in Leeds.
"National legislation to limit access to sunbed salons to those over 18, and close down unsupervised or coin operated salons, is required to stop more children being put at unnecessary risk," they said.
Six percent of English youngsters in the 11-to-17 age bracket use sunbeds, according to recent studies. The average age at which the practice starts is 14.
Usage rates are nearly three times as high in the north, and more common among older girls and within economically-deprived communities.
More than a quarter of the kids who darken their skin with the devices do so at least once a month, the studies found.
Sunbed use was highest in Liverpool and Sunderland, reaching 51 percent and 48 percent respectively among 15-17 year old girls, with over 40 percent using them weekly.