Tanning Beds


Tanning Equipment & Tanning Beds. There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB radiation from tanning equipment can cause sunburn and eye damage, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer and other UV-related negative health effects.

DID YOU KNOW Melanoma Network of Canada was instrumental in the passing of Bill 30, Skin Cancer Prevention Act, banning salesof tanning services to youth under age 18 in Ontario.


  • Early exposure to tanning beds can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by up to 75%.[1] Among those who first used a sunbed before age 35, the risk of melanoma is increased by 59%.[2]
  • A “base tan” provides little to no protection against sunburn. Any tan or change in skin colour is a sign of skin damage.
  •  A base tan only provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of about 3
  • Tanning is not a safe source of vitamin D. The best way to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D is through taking a vitamin D supplement and including D-rich food sources, such as milk or milk alternatives, such as fortified soy and almond beverages, in your diet.

What does the evidence say?

UV-emitting tanning devices are classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). There is sufficient evidence that UV-emitting tanning devices cause cutaneous and ocular melanoma. There is limited evidence that UV-emitting indoor tanning devices cause squamous cell carcinoma.23

The World Health Organization has issued a recommendation against the use of tanning equipment—especially by people under the age of 18.62,63

Ever-use of indoor tanning devices increases the risk of cutaneous melanoma by 15% to 22%,64,65 with evidence that risk increases with greater frequency of use.66–68 The few studies that have examined ocular melanoma risk have shown from 30% to as much as three times the risk compared with non-users for the highest exposure categories.23 There is also some indication of a positive dose-response relationship.23

The use of UV-emitting indoor tanning devices during adolescence and young adulthood may be associated with a particularly high risk of cutaneous and ocular melanoma.23,64,69,70

More people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.90

World Health Organization

In 2009, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans. More than 40 national and provincial authorities around the world have now implemented outright bans or restrictions on the use of sunbeds. However, much more work is still needed to restrict their use.

Are you at risk for skin cancer?

My Cancer IQ risk assessment

Sun Safety Myths

Tackling the sunscreen-related concerns we’ve seen pop up on health blogs recently.

Sunscreen Information

Choosing a sunscreen can be confusing! Here are some tips for picking a sunscreen that will help protect you from ultra-violet radiation:


1 Zhang M, Qureshi AA, Geller AC, Frazier L, Hunter DJ, Han J. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. J Clin Oncol 2012;30(14):1588-93.

2 Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 12;345:e4757.

  1. International Agency For Research On Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 100D. A review of human carcinogens. Part D: Radiation. Lyon: IARC Press; 2012.
  1. World Health Organization. Sunbeds, tanning and UV exposure [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Sep 13]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs287/en/
  2. World Health Organization. Artificial tanning sunbeds: risk and guidance [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003. Available from: http://www.who.int/uv/publications/sunbedpubl/en/index.html
  3. The International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: systematic review. Int J Cancer. 2007 Mar 1;120(5):1116–22.
  4. Hirst N, Gordon L, Gies P, Green AC. Estimation of avoidable skin cancers and cost-savings to government associated with regulation of the solarium industry in Australia. Health Policy. 2009 Mar;89(3):303–11.
  5. Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly exposed population. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jun;19(6):1557–68.
  6. Cust AE, Armstrong BK, Goumas C, Jenkins MA, Schmid H, Hopper JL, et al. Sunbed use during adolescence and early adulthood is associated with increased risk of early-onset melanoma. Int J Cancer. 2011 May 15;128(10):2425–35.
  7. Veierød MB, Adami H-O, Lund E, Armstrong BK, Weiderpass E. Sun and solarium exposure and melanoma risk: effects of age, pigmentary characteristics, and nevi. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jan;19(1):111–20.
  8. Vajdic CM, Kricker A, Giblin M, McKenzie J, Aitken JF, Giles GG, et al. Artificial ultraviolet radiation and ocular melanoma in Australia. Int J Cancer. 2004 Dec 10;112(5):896–900.
  9. Schmidt-Pokrzywniak A, Jöckel K-H, Bornfeld N, Sauerwein W, Stang A. Positive interaction between light iris color and ultraviolet radiation in relation to the risk of uveal melanoma: a case-control study. Ophthalmology. 2009 Feb;116(2):340–8.90.  Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol 2014; 150(4):390-400. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.