In 2017 the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced a paper on artificial tanning. Ironically, the front cover of this paper has the yellow ‘warning’ labels splashed all over it.

The history of sunbeds dates back a number of years, being developed in the 1960s. However, if was not until the 1980s that sunbeds (also known as tanning beds and solariums) began to be used in large numbers. By the 1990s, the artificial tanning industry had grown rapidly in Northern Europe, Australia and the Americas. With increasing use by young people, often females, the report notes that the risk to health, soon became apparent. Sunbed tanning is now seen as a public health issue, and accounts for about half a million new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States of America, Europe and Australia.

In 2003, WHO responded to the very serious public health challenge and published a guidance document on sunbed legislation, Artificial Tanning Sunbeds, Risks and Guidance. In addition, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to UV- emitting tanning devices (sunbeds, solariums) as carcinogenic to humans in 2009. Since that time, a number of organisations and individuals in the UK have called for outright bans on the use of commercial sunbeds. Having already obtained a ban for use in under 18s, many people feel that the ban did not go far enough and whilst it was a start, the only thing that would be acceptable would be an all out ban.

The paper states that sunbeds are designed to provide a tan rapidly and, to achieve this, emit UVR at high intensity and goes on to say that most tanning beds in Europe emit UVR at levels equivalent to midday tropical sun, but that some of the more powerful tanning beds may emit UVR with an intensity equivalent to an “extreme” UV index, and with UVA intensities well above anything experienced in nature. Given the number of sunbed salons and sunbed users in the UK, this information is deeply concerning.

Skin cancer is on the increase in the UK, it is now the 5th most common cancer. Melanoma UK speak to many melanoma patients and sadly, some of those patients have been sunbed users. 

Melanoma UK is calling for a ban on the use of commercial sunbeds in the UK. Enlisting the help of the Australians, who have already achieved the ban, they launched a petition in the summer of this year.

Cancer Research UK say on their website “Sunbeds can sometimes be marketed as a ‘controlled way’ of getting a ‘safer tan’. But actually, sunbeds are no safer than exposure to the sun itself.”  With that in mind, we would urge everyone to sign the petition.