Background A survey of all sunbeds in a local authority area was carried out in 1998. Since then, there have been technological developments leading to new ‘fast-tan’ sunlamps which have become increasingly popular, along with unmanned sun parlours. In addition, new British and European sunbed standards have been set.
Objectives To discover the commercial uptake of new high power sunlamps and to determine the impact on carcinogenic risk from sunbeds.
Methods Onsite spectral measurements, traceable to national standards, were conducted at all commercial sunbed premises within two local authorities and a quantitative risk assessment applied to the findings using a skin cancer model. Sunbed users were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their reasons for using a sunbed and the risk associated with its use.
Results We found a 30% increase in the number of privately operated sunbeds since our 1998 survey. The median cancer-weighted exposure of all 133 sunbeds was comparable to that of Mediterranean sunlight. This was a significant increase compared to 1998. Moreover, 83% of sunbeds produced ultraviolet (UV) B radiation levels that exceeded the European standard. Fifteen per cent of respondents thought that there were no risks from use of sunbeds.
Conclusions Sunbeds in current use carry a cancer risk comparable to Mediterranean sunlight. This is due to the use of new high power lamps. New British and European standards are being largely ignored with more than four out of five sunbeds exceeding the limit specified in the standard. There is a strong case for regulation of sunbed operators coupled to improved public education.