The Truth about Tanning

  • Body tanned
  • Hot UV Woman tanning
  • Girl on sunbed

News stories tend to claim that sunbeds are as dangerous as arsenic and compare them to smoking tobacco. These stories are inaccurate and misleading and are based on a misunderstanding of the actual research.

The truth is…

  • Sunbeds have been categorised as ‘Group 1’ in a report by a group of scientists in France. ‘Group 1’ means that there is evidence that the use of sunbeds may increase the risk of skin cancer. 

  • The information is not new. Sunlight is in the same category as sunbeds and has been in that category since 1992!

  • Since 1992, thousands of doctors have recommended moderate exposure to sunlight for a variety of health benefits. In fact, a lot of prominent Vitamin D experts are convinced that the benefits of sunlight outweigh the risks by far. 

  • Being in the ‘Group 1’ category does not say anything about the size of the risk, just that there is any risk at all. Some things in the category are very dangerous, like arsenic and mustard gas. Other substances only carry a very small risk, like red wine, beer and salted fish. 

  • News stories that say things like ‘tanning is as dangerous as arsenic’ are flat-out wrong. The scientists have not made that kind of comparison at all, only reporters looking for a scary headline. 

  • All the news stories are working off a press release and no reporter has actually read the report which classifies sunbeds as Group 1.

  • The report is not a new study, it is a review of a paper from 2006 - which itself was a review of 23 studies, some dating back to the early 1980s. Those studies had a wide range of findings:

Of the 23 studies:

    • were excluded for unusable data

    • 6 had results suggesting that sunbeds actually reduce the risk of skin cancer!

The Myth - Sunbed use causes skin cancer

Wrong! There is no scientific research to suggest that the use of sunbeds is accompanied with a higher risk of skin cancer. 

And the Facts…

It is overexposure and abuse of sunbeds, just like overexposure to sunlight, which is associated with health risks.

There is no difference between natural sunlight and sunbeds; sunbeds produce the same UV light as the sun. Research has shown that in countries with the most annual sunshine, there are the fewest cases of Colon, Prostate and Breast Cancer - thus refuting the link between UV light and Cancer conveyed by the media.

The media say that sunbeds produce stronger UV rays than the sun but you are only on a sunbed for around an average of 8 minutes - not 8 hours! 

Scientific studies suggest that drinking red wine or other alcoholic beverages carries a greater cancer risk than tanning.

Sunbeds have been categorised as ‘Group 1’ – other things included in this category include red wine, salted fish and regular sunlight as well as mustard gas and arsenic. To say that a glass of red wine is as deadly as mustard gas is ridiculous, as is the comparison of sunbeds to such toxins.

Sunbed use in itself has a number of health benefits. It is overexposure to UV light (from both sunbeds and natural sunlight) that causes health risks.

Benefits of Sunbeds

Sunbed use can improve psychological wellbeing – it can increase confidence and self-esteem whilst also offering a source of relaxation.

It can help to alleviate the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or Winter Blues. Many people experience depressive symptoms during Winter and these symptoms can be reduced through moderate sunbed use.

UV light can help to improve various skin conditions like Psoriasis, Eczema and Acne.

The pleasant warming effect of sunbed treatments can soothe muscular aches and pains and help alleviate the discomfort associate with Rheumatism and Arthritis.

Tanned skin protects you against sunburn, thought to be the main cause of melanoma. By using sunbeds, where the level of UV can be controlled, the risk of sunburn can be minimised.

Using sunbeds before a holiday can help the skin to develop a tan before going away and thereby minimise the risk of sunburn while on holiday.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of sunbed use however, is its link to Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Indoor tanning helps your body to produce Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for good health.

It lowers the risk of everyday infections like cold and flu as well as more fatal diseases, high blood pressure, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and depression.

Sunlight is the most effective way for the body to manufacture Vitamin D - indoor or outdoor.

6 out of 10 adults in the UK are Vitamin D deficient.

Studies suggest that regular, moderate use of sunbeds will raise the levels of Vitamin D in healthy adults by an average of 40%

Tanning in a sensible manner creates a whole host of health benefits.

It is OVEREXPOSURE that causes the health risks. In moderation sunbed use is good for you.


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