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Public Health (22-01-2016)

Public consultation on the Preliminary Opinion on the Health Effects of Sunbeds

SCENIHR’s Preliminary opinion on the biological effects of ultraviolet radiation relevant to health with particular reference to sunbeds for cosmetic purposes, published today for public consultation, looks at the rationale for and risks associated with the use of sunbeds. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the scientific evidence online before 21 March 2016.

Based on the available scientific evidence, the SCENIHR concludes that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is a complete carcinogen, both an initiator, and a promoter. There is strong evidence that sunbed exposure causes skin melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and, to a lesser extent, basal cell carcinoma, especially when exposure starts young. There is also some evidence that sunbed exposure may cause ocular melanoma. Sunbed use is responsible for a noticeable proportion of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers and for a large percentage of melanomas arising before the age of 30. SCENIHR also concludes that sunbed exposure has little health benefits, and there is no need to use sunbeds for optimal Vitamin D levels. Because of evidence of the carcinogenic effects of sunbed exposure and of the nature of skin cancer induction (there are no indications for threshold levels of UV-irradiance and UV–dose), there is no safe limit for UV irradiance from sunbeds.


In 2006, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products provided an opinion on the biological effects of UVR from sunbeds and stated that the use of UVR tanning devices for cosmetic tanning was likely to increase the risk of malignant melanoma of the skin and possibly ocular melanoma.

Then in 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed all the evidence on the carcinogenic effects of UVR from sunbeds, and classified use of UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).

This has led to European Commission’s current request to SCENIHR to review recent evidence in order to improve the understanding of risks associated with UVR in general, and with sunbeds in particular, and to provide an updated opinion.