Melanoma and sunbeds

A Consensus Statement

Sunburn should be avoided by individuals of all ages.

There is increasing evidence that excessive sun exposure and particularly sunburn when aged under 15 is a major risk factor for skin cancer in later life. Protection of the skin of children and adolescents is therefore particularly important.

It is important to realise the cumulative nature of sun induced skin damage. This is of particular relevance to individuals now living in the UK who may have spent part of their lives in a tropical or sub-tropical environment.

Sun exposure giving rise to sunburn and subsequent skin damage, can take place in the UK. It is therefore essential to protect the skin of both adults and children in this country, particularly during periods of sunny weather during the spring and early summer.

Individuals who develop skin cancer do not always have a history of deliberate sunbathing. Those who have an outdoor occupation and those who have an outdoor recreation, such as golfing, gardening, skiing or sailing, are also at risk and must learn to protect their skin.

A four point approach to minimising sun induced skin damage is advised. These points are in descending order of importance:

Avoiding noon day sun

(between 11am and 3pm)

Seeking natural shade

in the form of trees or other shelter

Use of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) clothing as a sunscreen

including T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and hats

Use of broad spectrum sun screen with an SPF of 15 or higher

to protect against UVB and with additional UVA protection

There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan.

A tan is a sign that already damaged skin is trying to protect itself from further damage. The protecting power of a tan is weaker than that of a mild sunscreen of SPF2-4

That in at least 4 out of 5 cases, skin cancer is a preventable disease.

Do not use sunbeds!

Sunbeds are not a safe alternative to lying outside in the sun as skin will still be exposed to harmful UV rays. There are many health risks linked to sunbeds which include:

Skin cancer

Premature ageing of skin

Sunburnt skin

Dryness and itching

Bumpy rashes

Eye irritation

“Using sunbeds before the age of 35 increases your risk of skin cancer by up to 75%,” says Katy Scammell of Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign “they also accelerate the skin’s natural ageing process”

Thankfully, It is now illegal for people under 18 years old to use sunbeds, including in tanning salons, beauty salons, leisure centres, gyms and hotels.

Do not use sunbeds or other UV tanning equipment if:

You have been sunburnt in the past, particularly in childhood

You have fair skin that burns easily

You have a large number of freckles or red hair

You have a large number of moles

You’re taking medication that makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight

Anyone in your family has had skin cancer in the past

Further information can be obtained from the Cancer Research UK website at