Sunbeds and skin cancer risk

Using sunbeds is not a safe way to get a tan. It exposes your skin to large amounts of UV rays that age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in Ireland. There are over 10,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year - approx. 9,700 non-melanoma skin cancers and 1, 000 melanomas. In 2015 there were 226 skin cancer deaths.

By not using sunbeds and taking care when outdoors with the SunSmart code most cases of skin cancer could be prevented. 

Sunbeds and cancer

The World Health Organisation tells us that using a sunbed causes skin cancer.

Even one sunbed session can increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer by 67% and basal cell skin cancer by 29%. 

Even more importantly is the increased risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

If you have ever used a sunbed your risk of melanoma increases by 20%.

Using it before the age of 35 increases your risk by almost 60%.

Common myths about sunbeds

There are some common myths about sunbeds. 'I have used a sunbed for years, the damage is done'. Or 'sunbeds are great to clear acne'. These statements are all false, but all too common and we have a developed a mythbusting guide to sunbeds.

Read about  common sunbed myths and how acting on these false perceptions can damage your health.

The bottom line about sunbeds

Using a sunbed isn’t safer than sun tanning. It won’t protect you from sunburn or damage to you skin from sunbathing. It isn’t a great way to get Vitamin D. 

Sunbeds give off UV rays that can be to fifteen times stronger than the midday Mediterranean sun. What sunbeds can do is cause your skin to sag and wrinkle.  

You want to feel healthy, more attractive and confident and think sunbeds will help? Think again! The price is high. Whatever your age, sunbed use increases your risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. If you must have a tan there are safer ways to get one.

The law and sunbeds in Ireland

The use of sunbeds is now controlled by law in this country.

The Public Health (Sunbeds) Act 2014, (No. 12 of 2014) was signed into law on 24 June 2014. The Act has been published and is available on the Irish Statute Book website.

The Act makes it an offence to:

  • Sell or hire a sunbed to any person under 18 years of age;
  • Allow a person under 18 years of age use a sunbed on a sunbed premises;
  • Sell the use of a sunbed on a sunbed premises to a person under 18 years of age;
  • Allow a person under 18 years of age to be in a restricted area unless in the course of their employment;
  • Protective eyewear must be worn;
  • Sunbed users must read and sign health warning information forms each time they plan to use a sunbed;
  • Warning signs must be displayed in sunbed premises.

See an example here

Still thinking of using a sunbed?

If you are still thinking of using a sunbed please think again. Sunbed uses increases your risk of skin cancer, whatever your age, sex and skin type. But, some people are at greater risk that others and should not use a sunbed under any circumstances. This includes you if:

  • You have fair or freckled skin;
  • Your skin always burns and never tans or burns before it tans;
  • You have a lot of moles;
  • You have had skin cancer or a family member has had skin cancer;
  • You use cosmetics or take medications that make your skin more sensitive to UV rays.

If you are unsure whether the cosmetics or medication you use affect your risk speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Read more about sunbed myths.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Monday, May 29, 2017