COUNCIL chiefs have pledged to get tough on tanning salons after new figures revealed a huge rise in the number of skin cancer sufferers in East Lancashire.

Rates of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, have doubled in Blackburn with Darwen and Lancashire over the last 20 years, with experts saying cheap package holidays to sunny destinations and a boom in sunbed use are partly to blame.

Cancer Research UK said the latest incidence rates show 13 people in every 100,000 in Blackburn with Darwen are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, compared to just six in every 100,000 in the early 1990s.

The rate in Lancashire has jumped even more dramatically, from seven to 18.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistics at Cancer Research UK, said: “Malignant melanoma incidence rates in the UK have increased more rapidly than any of today's ten most common cancers.

“Holidays in hot climates have become more affordable and sunbeds are more widely available.

“But we know over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.

“This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, and is why it's essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.

“The good news for those that are diagnosed, is that survival for the disease is amongst the highest for any cancer; more than eight in 10 people will now survive it.”

Steven Brimble, lead officer at Lancashire County Council's Trading Standards Service, said he recently wrote to all sunbed businesses in Lancashire warning them of the need to ensure their sunbeds comply with product safety standards.

These state that UV emissions must not exceed a set level (0.3W/m2) equivalent to the midday sun in the Mediterranean.

He added: “In February this year, we carried out further checks in Burnley and found that out of the 38 sunbeds we looked at, 30 failed the tests.

“Warnings have been issued to these businesses to take immediate action to ensure their sunbeds operate within safe limits.”

Gary Johnston, service manager for consumer protection at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Ensuring that businesses are acting responsibly and not illegally offering under 18s sunbed sessions is an ongoing issue.”