Background Concern has been expressed for many years in the medical and regulatory literature about the adverse health effects, especially melanoma, from the use of sunbeds for cosmetic tanning.
Objectives To estimate the mortality from melanoma as a result of the use of sunbeds for cosmetic tanning in the U.K.
Methods A model using a Monte Carlo random sampling technique was developed to estimate human ultraviolet exposure to both sunlight and sunbeds, and these data were used to predict the contribution of sunbeds to melanoma mortality in the U.K.
Results The mortality from melanoma due to sunbed use each year in the U.K. is estimated to be about 100 deaths.
Conclusions Sunbed use could be regarded as a relatively minor self-imposed detriment to public health compared with other voluntary ‘pleasurable’ activities associated with significant mortality, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. While cosmetic tanning using sunbeds should be discouraged, prohibition is not warranted especially as exposure to the sun, which cannot be regulated, remains the major contributory factor to the risk of melanoma.