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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Sunbeds: ANSES issues a reminder of the proven risk of skin cancer

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News of 10/10/2018

The health risks associated with exposure to artificial UV radiation from sunbeds have been well established for many years now. ANSES points out that recent data on the subject support previous assessments: there is a proven cancer risk associated with UV radiation from artificial tanning equipment. The Agency therefore recommends that the public authorities take the necessary steps to prevent people from being exposed to artificial UV radiation from sunbeds used for cosmetic purposes.

The cosmetic use of artificial sunbeds has increased considerably over the past 30 years, raising many questions about their health effects. Various measures have been taken to regulate the use of tanning equipment in France. In order to review the application of these regulations, the Ministry of Health asked ANSES to update scientific knowledge on the health consequences of exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation from sunbeds.

There is a proven risk of skin cancer associated with artificial tanning

For many years now, scientific knowledge has helped document the health effects of artificial ultraviolet radiation, and ANSES has published several expert appraisal reports on the subject. Sunbeds emit high-intensity radiation, equivalent to exposure to tropical sunlight. The doses received during artificial tanning sessions add to those received naturally. They cause DNA damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. It is important to remember that there is no irradiance or dose limit that can be set to protect users.

Artificial UV radiation was classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2009. Numerous studies have shown a significant increase in the risk of cancer – particularly skin melanoma – associated with the use of sunbeds. In 2014, ANSES pointed out the higher risk from exposure at an early age: people who have used sunbeds at least once before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing skin melanoma by 59%. In France, it has been estimated that 43% of melanoma cases in young people can be attributed to the use of sunbeds before the age of 30. Two recent epidemiological studies in the United States and Norway confirmed the level of evidence of the carcinogenic risk associated with the use of tanning equipment.

Other health effects but no benefits

Exposure to artificial UV radiation also causes other harmful effects, such as accelerated skin ageing, which is estimated to be four times faster with tanning lamps than with the sun.                                                   

In addition, the skin colouring caused by exposure to artificial UV radiation occurs according to a different mechanism from that of natural tanning, and provides no protection against the harmful effects of UV radiation. This means that exposure to artificial UV radiation does not prepare the skin for sun exposure and does not protect against sunburn. Lastly, the use of sunbeds does not provide the body with a significant amount of vitamin D.

ANSES recommends taking the necessary steps to prevent people from being exposed to artificial UV radiation for cosmetic purposes

In its previous opinions, the Agency recommended avoiding exposure to artificial UV radiation and pointed out that the regulatory framework was a partial and insufficient response to the proven risk of skin cancer for sunbed users.

On the basis of this new summary of expert assessments and recent data in this field, ANSES reiterates the hazardous nature of artificial tanning, confirms its previous advice and recommends that the public authorities take the necessary steps to prevent people from being exposed to artificial UV radiation.