sunburnTwo university students from Camden, North London, have launched a campaign to educate their peers on the dangers of using sunbeds.

Emmy Thittanond, 23, and Hayley Omar, 22, took to the streets with placards ’Say no to sunbeds’ and ’Be comfortable in your own skin’, after discovering that nearly half of their university friends admitted tanning on them.

There is an alarming increase in malignant melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer - among women in their twenties, and sunbeds are a contributory factor. The popularity of reality TV shows featuring sun-kissed celebrities, as well as photos of tanned Hollywood celebrities in magazines, are also thought to add to the pressure.

According to Cancer Research UK, those aged under 30 using a sunbed to get a tan increase their risk of skin cancer by 75% and using one before the age of 35 ups it by 59%.

Further reading: British children's health lags behind Europe says CMO

As part of a project at Westminster University, Emmy and Hayley interviewed more than 200 fellow students aged between 18 and 25 and discovered that 44% use them, with a quarter topping up their tan on them at least once a month.

Emmy said: “I used to be a sunbed user myself but I started doing research into it and now I’m scared to go back to them ever again. Women don’t know about the dangers unless they look into the details.”

Despite a ban on under 18s using a sunbed, more than 250,000 young people in England aged between 11 and 17 have used them.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “If you really want a tan, it’s better to fake it from a bottle than to spend time out in the sun or under a sunbed.”

For more facts about skin cancer and its dangers, visit www.skcin.org/Sun-Safety/Sun-Bed-Facts