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Public Health (30-11-2016)

No safe exposure limit for UV radiation from sunbeds, concludes independent scientific committee

Today, the European Commission and its Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) publish the final Opinion on the biological effects of ultraviolet radiation relevant to health with particular reference to sunbeds for cosmetic purposes.

Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR), including that emitted by sunbeds, is considered a complete carcinogen, in that it can initiate and promote cancer.

Based on the available scientific evidence, the SCHEER concludes that exposure to UVR in the context of sunbed use is:

  • strongly associated with skin melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, especially when first exposure takes place at a younger age;
  • moderately associated with basal cell carcinoma and ocular melanoma;
  • responsible for a significant proportion of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases associated with early onset melanoma.

As there is no threshold level of UV-irradiance and UV–dose for the induction of skin cancer, the SCHEER concludes that there is no safe limit for exposure to UVR from sunbeds.

Furthermore, as the risks outweigh the benefits, there is no need to use sunbeds to induce vitamin D production.

Background

The current Opinion is an update of the 2006 Opinion on the biological effects of UVR from sunbeds, by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products. The 2006 Opinion concluded that UVR tanning devices for cosmetic tanning was likely to increase the risk of malignant melanoma of the skin and possibly ocular melanoma.

Since 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).

The Commission subsequently requested that its independent scientific committee provide an updated Opinion, taking into account all recent evidence, in order to improve the understanding of policy makers and the general public of risks associated with UVR in general, and with sunbeds in particular.

More information

More information on the work of the Commission's independent scientific committees