They were seen as the healthy way to get a tan, a short burst of UV, safer than hours spent soaking up the sun, but Debbi Gibson blames sun beds for the cancer that’s now killing her, and which will soon leave her young daughter without a mother.
“One of the hardest things you have to do is tell your child that you’re dying. I don’t think a seven-year old child can really really understand that when I’m gone, I’m sort of gone forever.”
With dreams of modeling and acting, as a teenager, Debbi saved her paper round money, to buy her own sun bed. It was the beginning of twenty years of regular sun bed youth, often without goggles to protect her eyes.
“I’ve never even heard of eye cancer, I never knew it existed. It was two weeks before my forty-first birthday that they told me that I got a lump in my eye.”
Debbi is calling for sun beds to be banned, although there is conflicting evidence as to whether there is a link to the eye cancer she has, and UV exposure. It’s rare, with three-hundred and twenty people diagnosed in the U.K. every year, and twenty deaths. While there are thirteen-thousand new cases of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, that’s five times higher than it was in the nineteen-seventies.
“Our advice is not to use sun beds. There are no health benefits from using sun beds for any cosmetic purposes.” “The World Health Organization says sun beds can cause cancer, and rank alongside cigarettes and asbestos, in terms of the risks they present, but the association which represents tanning salons insists these machines are safe, if they are used properly.”
In a statement the Sun Bed Association says “Millions of people the world over use sunbeds safely and responsibly following correct usage guidance, which includes the wearing of protective eyewear … UV penetrates the skin, so it is insufficient either on a sunbed or when sunbathing to just close your eyes.” Debbi though, thinks regulations and safety measures, don’t go far enough. But she knows, she doesn’t have long, to get that message across.