Skin cancer rates continue to soar in the UK, melanoma kills 6 people every day. Sunbed users have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

It is estimated that treating these cancers will cost the NHS up to £465m a year by 2025. The NHS is already overstretched. If melanoma spreads through the body, it is notoriously difficult to treat. The treatments that are used are enormously expensive. A sunbed ban would indirectly support the NHS.


In July 2018, Melanoma UK launched a petition for the ban on sunbeds in the UK. We asked our Government to look at this seriously, given that Australia and Brazil have already successfully banned the use of commercial sunbeds in their respective countries.

Here at Melanoma UK we speak to the patients and families whose lives have been devastated by a melanoma diagnosis.  Many of the patients we speak to have used sunbeds.  

As at 19 January 2019, despite gaining over 15,000 signatures the petition was closed with a response from the Committee saying it would not be reviewing the current policy. We are extremely concerned to note that the Committee has relied on old and very dated information some dating back to 2009 and 2010.  

There is plenty of information available that is current, for example, the World Health Organisation published as recently as 2017; Artificial tanning devices. Public health interventions to manage sunbeds”.

We have written to the relevant parties to highlight this, including:

  • The Secretary for State for Health and Social Care;
  • The Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
  • Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care
  • Chief Executive of NHS England

As many people are aware, melanoma is on the increase in the UK. Every 24 hours, six people die of melanoma. GPs, dermatologists, surgeons, oncologists, nurses, radiographers, in fact, all health care professionals, support a ban on sunbeds.

We have received some fabulous support since the petition was launched.

Professor Grant McArthur - MB BS (Hons) Ph.D. FRACP FAHMS 

The Sunbed ban in Australia has been highly effective.  We estimate that one unnecessary death per week has been prevented by the ban.  The greatest burden of deaths from Sunbeds falls in people aged 20-40.  I plead that the UK save their young people by banning sunbeds.

Mr Myles Smith - Consultant General Surgeon and Surgical Oncologist in Sarcoma and Melanoma.

There is no such thing as a safe tan, and that we know that most skin cancers are related to UV light exposure

Dr Nicole Chiang - Consultant Dermatologist treating skin cancer patients on a regular basis.

There is now clear evidence that sunbed use increases the risk of melanoma. The risk of melanoma doubles when sunbeds are used at a young age (less than 35 years). Sunbeds cause 3 times more DNA damage compared to natural sunlight. Due to the serious health risk, my view is that sunbeds should be permanently banned”

Dr Robert S Dawes - Consultant Dermatologist and Honorary Clinical Reader

Sunbed use is associated with, and almost certainly plays a part in causing, melanomas.  Sunbeds are usually used for purely cosmetic reasons and for most people the risks are not justified. My personal view is that they should be very strictly regulated if not banned altogether.

Professor Sally Ibbottson.

There is good robust published evidence that regular sunbed use, especially starting prior to the age of 35, increases the lifetime risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer and is not an alternative to hospital supervised phototherapy. As such we are very much against sunbed use and as a Unit have been instrumental in leading the way in the introduction of legislation to limit and restrict use.”

Dr Andrew Birnie - Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatological Surgeon

The World Health Organisation has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic and rightly so. It has been shown that the biggest cause of melanoma is high-intensity bursts of ultraviolet light on skin not used to being exposed to UV. That is why the back is such a common site for melanoma to develop – your typical person spends most of the year with a shirt on and then when they go on holiday to a hot country the skin on their back gets a big, sudden blast of UV. This is exactly what a tanning bed does with very high doses in a short space of time.  In addition to the rising incidence of melanoma, I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of basal cell carcinomas in younger people, especially in women who have used tanning beds in their teens and early twenties.”

Dr Christian Aldridge - BSc (Hons), MBChB, MRCP

The World Health Organisation recognises UV as carcinogenic to man. WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans. More than 40 national and provincial authorities around the world have now implemented outright bans or restrictions on the use of sunbeds."

Many of the supporters of the petition have been disappointed by the Government’s first response but we are encouraged by the fact that it was not turned down immediately.

The decision is not a ‘NO’ and the people who support this petition will have their voices heard.   

We urge everyone now to sign and share this petition.    Sign the petition here