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Dr Suzanna Kent - Sunbeds and skin cancers - 17 March

Sunbeds have experienced a large growth in the last 10 years in both NZ and Australia. There is concern about this because of increasing evidence linking sunbed exposure to skin cancers including melanoma.

In particular:
- there is a 75% increase in melanoma in those first exposed to sunbeds in their teens and twenties. Melanoma is the most dangerous of the three skin cancers and can kill.
- UV exposure in the first 18 years of life is the most important in determining lifelong risk of skin cancer. I.e. young people are most at risk.
- Some cosmetics and medications can increase the sensitivity of the skin to UV radiation which means it can take less time to burn on a sunbed. This includes some antibiotics, some antidepressants and medication for high blood pressure and those that suppress the immune system.
- The UV radiation can be up to five times as strong as the midday sun.

In NZ there are only voluntary regulations on sunbed operators. In Victoria in Australia people who own or run a sunbed now must have a licence. The licence requires:

- Banning those under age 18 
- Banning those with fair skin
- Display health warnings
- Provide a consent form
- Provide a skin assessment of all clients
- Provide protective eyewear

Victorian regulations are available at

But isn't tanning protective?
Having a tan only provides a sun protective factor of 2 to 4.  Tanning is a sign of skin damage and prematurely ages the skin.  Get a spray-on tan if you have to!

The UV rays in a solarium do not mimic the normal sun. There are different amounts of UVA and UVB, and both of these rays cause damage.