Eight out of ten sun bed users have increased their risk of a life-threatening form of skin cancer by around 75 per cent according to Cancer Research UK.
A survey of 4000 people, commissioned by the charity, has found that the vast majority of sun bed users (82 per cent) first soaked up the artificial tan enhancing rays before they were 35.
This is particularly dangerous according to a report published by the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) which found that people who start using sun beds under the age of 35 increase their risk of malignant melanoma by 75 per cent.
The survey also found that as many as one in three women questioned had used a sun bed. Overall, for men and women, the figure was one in four.
As a result of the survey Cancer Research UK is today launching stark warnings to sun bed users that over exposure to UV rays in the tanning salon can prove as dangerous as getting burnt on the beach.
Over exposure to artificial UV in sunbeds can be just as dangerous as staying out too long in sun. The intensity of some UV rays from sun beds can be 10-15 times higher than that of the midday sun.
Repeated exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster.
Malignant melanoma is now the most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 34 and can be fatal. More women are diagnosed with melanoma but more men die from the disease.
In the UK almost 9,000 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year -and more than 1800 die from the disease each year.
Professor Mike Richards, the government's national cancer director, said: "The Cancer Reform Strategy explained that the number of people getting skin cancer is rising rapidly. It is a matter of particular concern that even children may be getting access to sunbeds and it is also important that they should have information about the dangers of excessive exposure to UV."
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