Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer among light-skinned populations. The chief environmental cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation (UVR). UVR exposure comes mainly from the sun, but over the past three decades there has been an increase in the use of artificial sources of UVR in the form of artificial tanning devices, such as sunbeds, stand up booths and facial tanners. This deliberate exposure to UVR is increasing the incidence of the major types of skin cancer.
The World Health Organization has produced a document intended for government health authorities, to assist in the development of public health interventions in relation to the use and management of sunbeds. The document provides a summary of health effects as well as a catalogue of interventions that have been used to reduce risks associated with artificial tanning. It is supplemented by a WHO database on sunbed regulations.
Artificial tanning is a recent phenomenon. Sunbeds and other tanning devices emitting artificial ultraviolet radiation (UVR) were developed in the 1960s but it was not until the 1980s that people began to use tanning beds in large numbers. During the 1990s, the artificial tanning industry grewrapidly in Northern Europe, Australia and the Americas. With increasing exposure by young people,often women, to artificial ultraviolet radiation, the health risks soon became apparent. Artificialtanning is now seen as a public health issue accounting for about half a million new cancer diagnoseseach year in the United States of America, Europe and Australia. Evidence of an association between artificial tanning and risk of skin cancer clearly shows that the risk is highest in those exposed to artificial tanning in early life.
More information on public health interventions to manage artificial tanning devices on the who.int website.