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Brussels, 6th July 2006

Scientists warn: Ultraviolet radiation from sunbeds increases skin-cancer risk

According to an opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer products (SCCP) to the European Commission released today, the use of ultraviolet-radiation devices, tanning lamps and sunbeds, to achieve and maintain cosmetic tanning, is likely to increase the risk of malignant melanoma of the skin. Therefore, scientists recommend that people with known risk factors, such as skin with high sunburn susceptibility, none or poor tanning ability, the presence of freckles, atypical and/or multiple moles and a family history of melanoma should not use tanning devices for cosmetic purposes. Equally, individuals under 18 should not use tanning devices since the risk of melanoma seems to be particularly high when using them at a young age. The Commission calls upon Member States and the sun-bed industry to ensure that appropriate warnings and instructions are provided with the product to prevent misuse. The Commission will also call upon standardisers to introduce UV limits in product standards, introduce guidance for industry and consumers and asks that Member States ensure that solariums apply these recommendations (see below, What will the Commission do).

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “The Commission calls upon Member States and the sun-bed industry to ensure that appropriate warnings and instructions are provided with sun-beds in order to reduce the risks of users developing related skin cancer. We call on Member States and industry to ensure an appropriate use of sun beds.”

Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, responsible for health and consumer protection policy, has declared: “I am concerned that indiscriminate use of these tanning devices for cosmetic purposes could lead to an increased incidence of skin- cancers. We need to act rapidly in order to raise public awareness of the risks associated with sunbeds. We also need guidance to consumers to help them recognise whether they have risk factors and should not use these devices. I will propose initiatives in that respect without delay”.

The main source of exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the sun, but for some individuals substantial exposure occurs from artificial sources including sunbeds for cosmetic purposes, industrial lamps, arc welding and medical UVR therapies. There is evidence that UVR can cause damage to health. The cosmetic purpose of using a sunbed is to achieve a tan.

UVR tanning devices were not in widespread use before the 1990s and the full health effects of their use are not yet known. It will take several years before the real picture of the role of the UVR tanning devices in inducing skin cancer becomes fully apparent. Devices in use by solariums use the more powerful UV-B type of radiation.

People with known risk factors for skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma, should be advised not to use UVR tanning devices. Specifically, these are (i) skin phenotypes I and II and the presence of freckles, (ii) multiple and/or atypical moles and (iii) a family history of melanoma. Risk of melanoma seems to be particularly high when using sunbeds at a young age. Thus UVR tanning devices should not be used by individuals under the age of 18 years.

What will the Commission do?

The Commission will study the opinion and examine possible measures that could be taken, both legislative and non-legislative. The Commission considers it a high first priority to inform consumers about the recommendations of the report, and is contacting consumer organisations and Member State authorities to this effect. The Commission will prepare a guidance fiche in all official EU languages with the co-operation of European Dermatologists Association to raise public awareness on risks and guide consumers in recognising whether they are at risk.

Finally the Commission will ask that the relevant standard (EN 60335-2-27:1997) be amended, taking into account the recommendations made including those concerning irradiance.

European harmonised standards are developed by the European Standardisation Organisations and the Commission request to change the standard will follow under the “Low Voltage Directive” 73/23/EEC which sets the health and safety objectives for sun-beds.
The Scientific Committee's Opinion can be found at:

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