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For the Public


The BAD's position on sunbeds

The recent sunbeds Bills in England and Scotland, in which under 18’s were banned from using tanning machines, are certainly a step in the right direction in the fight against skin cancer.
Sunbed use and overexposure to the sun can be a risk to the skin at any age, however a review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that first exposure to sunbeds before the age of 35 years increases the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent.
Many tanning salons still do not provide adequate information on the health risks posed to anyone, regardless of age, but instead advertise somewhat spurious health ‘benefits’. It is important for people to understand the risks that these machines pose so that they can make informed decisions about using them.

We feel, however, that the regulations should go further, with powers of inspection of sunbed parlours, to ensure compliance.

One option is for local authority regulated licensing schemes, with licences issued only to salons that comply with set criteria and that pass regular inspections. Standards that would have to be met in order to retain a licence include:

  • The restriction of sunbeds for under-18s
  • Full-time supervision of sunbed facilities by trained staff
  • Compulsory display and provision of customer information regarding the health risks
  • A limit on the number of sessions available for adults to prevent over-exposure
  • No coin-operated machines
  • Evidence that the equipment has been properly maintained and complies with British safety standards.

Licences would not be granted to local authority health facilities, such as gyms and health centres, and licences could be revoked at any stage, subject to regular inspections. Premises not in possession of a licence would not be permitted to offer sunbeds.

It is our view that it is imperative that salons that fail to comply should be subject to an outright ban on providing sunbeds, as would be possible through a licensing scheme. We feel that this provision is lacking in the UK. Fines will not, in our view, provide an adequate deterrent to some sunbed operators, given the potential profitability of providing sunbeds facilities outwith the restrictions provided for in the Bills, such as to persons aged under 18.
A licensing scheme that allows local authorities to revoke licenses and close businesses that fail to meet the conditions outlined would be a far more effective deterrent.

In addition to the restrictions outlined in the Bill, we would also like to see the removal of sunbeds from public authority gyms and leisure centres, where there is a perception that such facilities are 'healthy'. We also feel that advertising materials claiming health benefits of sunbed use should be prohibited. There are no potential health benefits that cannot be more safely and effectively obtained through other means, and any health benefits are debatable, thus such claims should be prevented.

British Photodermatology Group and British Association of Dermatologists Consensus Statement:


The availability and use of commercial ultraviolet-A (UVA) sunbeds has increased greatly in recent years. At the same time the intensity of UV emitted by these sunbeds has also increased such that their skin cancer risks are often equivalent to Mediterranean summer sunlight1. The enlarged sunbed market includes many outlets without supervisory staff, where customers choose the frequency and duration of exposures without clear advice or health warnings.
There is strong evidence that use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancers, including malignant melanoma2. For those who start using sunbeds before the age of 35 years the relative risk of malignant melanoma almost doubles.
Now all countries of the UK have introduced legislation controlling the use of commercial sunbeds. All European, and most International bodies concerned with advice on cancer or radiation protection have issued position statements or other guidance discouraging use of UV devices for cosmetic tanning and recommending restrictions on their use by under 18 year olds. The World Health Organisation classifies sunbeds as a “Group 1 Carcinogen”2-8.


The British Photodermatology Group supports the provisions of the UK Sunbed Acts as good first steps towards a policy to minimise the risks of sunbed use. These should be enforced by regulation of sunbed operators and inspection of premises.
In view of the statements, reports and advice of many National and International agencies on the use of sunbeds, and in light of the strong evidence of harm from the use of sunbeds for cosmetic tanning, the British Photodermatology Group make the following recommendations:

  • The use of UV equipment for cosmetic tanning should be strongly discouraged.
  • In commercial premises sunbed use should be banned for under-18s, as already enacted in all the countries of the UK.
  • Strong public information programmes should emphasise the risks of sunbeds, especially to children and young adults.
  • Advertising by the sunbed industry should be carefully scrutinised.
  • Any claims of health benefits from sunbed use should be banned.
  • Sunbeds should never be used by these groups:
    • Under 18 years of age
    • Those with fair/freckly skin that does not normally tan with sun exposure
    • Those with large number of moles
    • Those with a history of skin cancer;
    • Those with abnormal sensitivity to the sun either due to photosensitive skin diseases (sun allergies) or medication
  • As part of the Registration of owners/operators of sunbed premises and sunbed manufacturers:
    • Claims of health benefits for sunbeds must not be made.
    • All sunbeds should be limited to types I, II or III as defined by the IEC Standard (BS EN 60335-2-27: 2003)9. Use of  UV tubes that exceed these limits should be banned.
    • UV goggles must be provided to clients.
    • All premises should be staffed by trained personnel.
    • Clearly visible information on minimising the risks from sunbeds and appropriate health warnings should be provided to clients prior to tanning exposure.


  1. Oliver H, Ferguson J, Moseley H. Quantitative risk assessment of sunbeds: impact of new high power lamps. British Journal of Dermatology August 2007; 157: 350-6.
  2. IARC. International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: A systematic review. Int J Cancer 2007; 120: 1116-22.
  3. WHO. Artificial Tanning Sunbeds Risks and Guidance. In. Geneva: World Health Organisation. 2003.
  4. CR-UK. Cancer Research UK Policy Statement Sunbeds. In: Cancer Research UK. 2009.
  5. ICNIRP. Health Issues of Ultraviolet Tanning Appliances Use for Cosmetic Purposes. International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. Health Physics 2003; 84: 119-27.
  6. COMARE. Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) Report 13: The Health Effects and Risks Arising from Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation from Artificial Tanning Devices. In: Health Protection Agency. 2009.
  7. SCCP. EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) Preliminary opinion on: Biological Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation Relevant to Health with Particular Reference to Sun Beds for Cosmetic Purposes. In: EU SCCP. 2005; SCCP/0949/05.
  8. CIEH. Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Policy Briefing Note - Sunbeds. In: Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. 2010.
  9. IEC. Safety of Household and Similar Appliances. In: Part 2: Particular requirements for appliances for skin exposure to ultraviolet and infrared radiation., Vol. 335. Geneva: International Electrotechnical Commission. 1995; 2-27.
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