Cancer and Lifestyle – Are sunbeds safe?

Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays that increase your risk of developing skin cancer (both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma). Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday tropical sun.

The risks are greater for young people. Evidence shows that:

people who are frequently exposed to UV rays before the age of 25 are at greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life

sunburn in childhood can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life

It’s illegal for people who are under the age of 18 to use sunbeds. The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 makes it an offence for someone operating a sunbed business to permit those under 18 to:

use a sunbed at the business premises, including beauty salons, leisure centres, gyms and hotels

be offered the use of a sunbed at the business premises

be allowed in an area reserved for sunbed users (unless they’re working as an employee of the business)

The GOV.UK website has further details about the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010.

UV rays from sunbeds

Sunbeds, sunlamps and tanning booths give out the same type of harmful radiation as sunlight. UVA rays make up about 95% of sunlight. They can cause your skin to age prematurely, making it look coarse, leathery and wrinkled. UVB rays make up about 5% of sunlight and burn your skin.

A tan is your body’s attempt to protect itself from the damaging effect of UV rays. Using a sunbed to get a tan isn’t safer than tanning in the sun. It may even be more harmful, depending on factors such as:

the strength of UV rays from the sunbed

how often you use a sunbed

the length of your sunbed sessions

your skin type – for example, whether you have fair or dark skin

your age

In 2006, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products concluded the maximum ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunbeds should not exceed 0.3W/m2, or 11 standard erythema doses per hour (erythema means reddening of the skin caused by sunburn). These 11 standard doses are the same as exposure to the tropical sun, which the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as extreme.

Damage from UV rays

Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

You can’t always see the damage UV rays cause. The symptoms of skin damage can take up to 20 years to appear.

UV rays can also damage your eyes, causing problems such as irritation, conjunctivitis or cataracts, particularly if you don’t wear goggles.

Advice about using sunbeds

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued advice on the health risks associated with UV tanning equipment, such as sunbeds, sunlamps and tanning booths. They recommend you should not use UV tanning equipment if you:

have fair, sensitive skin that burns easily or tans slowly or poorly

have a history of sunburn, particularly in childhood

have lots of freckles and red hair

have lots of moles

are taking medicines or using creams that make your skin sensitive to sunlight

have a medical condition made worse by sunlight, such as vitiligo (a long-term skin condition caused by a lack of a chemical in the skin called melanin)

have had skin cancer or someone in your family has had it

already have badly sun-damaged skin

The HSE advice also includes important points to consider before deciding to use a sunbed. For example, if you decide to use a sunbed, the operator should advise you about your skin type and how long you should limit your session to.

Read more about the HSE guidance on the use of UV tanning equipment (PDF, 102kb).

Do you know what are the risks to your eye health? Find out about blue light and UV rays

New research reveals most Britons unaware of damage to their eyes by surrounding objects, activities, and devices.

Anatomy of the human eye
Anatomy of the human eye

The poll has shown that many British people remain uninformed about the various ways in which eyes are damaged by common daily factors, despite evidence that eye health is affected by blue light[i], UV rays (reflected from common surfaces)[ii], diet[iii], obesity[iv], and smoking[v].

Of the 2,096 people polled, the percentage of respondents aware of the link between known factors affecting and eye health were:

  • Poor diet (59%)
  • Obesity (35%)
  • Smoking tobacco (36%)
  • UV light, not just direct from the sun but reflected off shiny surfaces (54%)
  • Blue light from low energy lightbulbs and electronic screens (29%)

Over one in ten people were completely unaware that any of these factors could affect your eyesight at all.

72% of respondents own or wear prescription glasses but only 28% knew that there were lenses available (for both prescription and non-prescription glasses) to protect against some of these factors. Namely ‘blue light’ (emitted from electronic devices and low energy light bulbs), and ‘UV light’ (not only directly from the sun but also from reflections such as off of water, windows, and road surfaces).


76% admitted they haven’t heard of E-SPF ratings – the grade given to lenses to show the level of protection they offer against UV.

Just 13% have lenses with protection from direct and reflected UV light, and only 2% have protection from blue light (from screens, devices, and low energy bulbs).

Poll results showed that younger people were most aware of the dangers of UV and blue light, yet least aware of how smoking tobacco and obesity can affect your eye health. W

Awareness of the impacts of smoking and obesity on eye health is significantly higher in Scotland (47% & 49% respectively) than anywhere else in the UK (35% & 33% in England and 40% & 38% in Wales).

Essilor’s Professional Relations Manager, Andy Hepworth, has commented: “The lack of awareness about these common risks to people’s eyes is concerning. Not only would many more glasses wearers be better protected, but also many people who do not wear glasses would likely take precautions too, if made aware of the dangers and the existence of non-prescription protective lenses”

To see the full results of the poll, please visit the Essilor site here: http://www.essilor.co.uk/all_about_vision/all_about_vision_news_events/Eye_Health_At_Risk

For more information on the protection offered from blue light and UV through specialist lens coatings, for both prescriptions and non-prescription glasses, please see here for Essilor UV & Blue Light Protection.

 

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,096 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st and 24th August 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[i] Blue light causes a chemical to be produced that brings on cell death in the eye. Over time this can lead to age related muscular degeneration (AMD). – Aging of Cultured Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells: Oxidative Reactions, Lipofuscin Formation and Blue Light Damage – Documenta Ophthalmologica. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1022419606629

 

[ii] Prolonged exposure to UV rays can bring about early-onset cataracts and premature ocular aging. – Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation on Cataract Formation – The New England Journal of Medicine. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM198812013192201
Reflected UV rays are arguably more important than direct rays, as they are responsible for 50% of the UV radiation we receive, yet it is not as immediately obvious to the public that this is a concern. – Meyler J and Schnider C. The role of UV-blocking soft CLs in ocular protection. Optician 2002, 223: 5854: 28-32.

 

[iii] A good diet rich in carotenoids from foods such as broccoli, green beans, leafy greens, foods with vitamins C and E, foods with omega-3 fatty acids and foods with zinc can help prevent macular degeneration. – Dietary Antioxidants and the Long-term Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The Blue Mountains Eye Study – Ophthalmology. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161642007004745 and Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration – The Journal of the American Medical Association. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=382145

 

[iv] Obesity puts pressure on to blood vessels, which are especially delicate in your eyes, and this causes damage that can lead to poor vision. Obesity is also related to poor nutrition, which can prevent your eyes from getting the vitamins they need to maintain good health. – Obesity, Lutein Metabolism, and Age-Related Macular Degeneration: a Web of Connections – Nutrition Reviews – Oxford Journals. http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/1/9

 

[1] Blue light causes a chemical to be produced that brings on cell death in the eye. Over time this can lead to age related muscular degeneration (AMD). – Aging of Cultured Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells: Oxidative Reactions, Lipofuscin Formation and Blue Light Damage – Documenta Ophthalmologica. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1022419606629

 

[1] Prolonged exposure to UV rays can bring about early-onset cataracts and premature ocular aging. – Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation on Cataract Formation – The New England Journal of Medicine. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM198812013192201
Reflected UV rays are arguably more important than direct rays, as they are responsible for 50% of the UV radiation we receive, yet it is not as immediately obvious to the public that this is a concern. – Meyler J and Schnider C. The role of UV-blocking soft CLs in ocular protection. Optician 2002, 223: 5854: 28-32.

 

[1] A good diet rich in carotenoids from foods such as broccoli, green beans, leafy greens, foods with vitamins C and E, foods with omega-3 fatty acids and foods with zinc can help prevent macular degeneration. – Dietary Antioxidants and the Long-term Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The Blue Mountains Eye Study – Ophthalmology. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161642007004745 and Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration – The Journal of the American Medical Association. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=382145

 

[1] Obesity puts pressure on to blood vessels, which are especially delicate in your eyes, and this causes damage that can lead to poor vision. Obesity is also related to poor nutrition, which can prevent your eyes from getting the vitamins they need to maintain good health. – Obesity, Lutein Metabolism, and Age-Related Macular Degeneration: a Web of Connections – Nutrition Reviews – Oxford Journals. http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/1/9

 

[1] Smoking amplifies the impact of oxidation on cells in the eye, as well as restricting blood flow and causing build-up of heavy metals in the eye. – Smoking And Neovascular Form Of Age Related Macular Degeneration In Late Middle Aged Males: Findings From A Case-Control Study In Japan – British Journal of Ophthalmology. http://bjo.bmj.com/content/81/10/901.full

 

[v] Smoking amplifies the impact of oxidation on cells in the eye, as well as restricting blood flow and causing build-up of heavy metals in the eye. – Smoking And Neovascular Form Of Age Related Macular Degeneration In Late Middle Aged Males: Findings From A Case-Control Study In Japan – British Journal of Ophthalmology. http://bjo.bmj.com/content/81/10/901.full