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Solariums and skin cancer risk

June 2011

Research shows that if you use a solarium, even just one time, before you turn 35 you have increased your risk of melanoma by between 75 and 98%, compared to someone who has never used a solarium.

Solariums are never safe and the levels of UV radiation emitted can be up to six times as strong as the midday summer sun.[1]

In Victoria the industry has been regulated since 2008. Now any person or business that possesses, sells or maintains a tanning unit must hold a management license.

Operators must:

  • ban people under the age of 18 and those with very fair skin (skin type 1)
  • see proof of age documents for all clients
  • display health warnings
  • provide a consent form outlining the risks for customers to read and sign
  • complete a skin assessment of all clients
  • ensure all staff have completed training in carrying out skin assessments
  • ensure clients use protective eyewear.

In 2011 the Victorian Government introduced a ‘mystery shopper' enforcement program. This is where shoppers visit businesses with tanning units, testing whether the operators comply with their license requirements.

The introduction of legislation, coupled with Victorians becoming more aware and informed of the risks associated with solariums, has resulted in people voting with their feet: since the regulation has come in the number of solarium sites has reduced by 61% in Victoria.

But there is still more work to be done to ensure people remain aware of the serious health risks of solariums. Many people still believe that solariums are safe and that a tan is healthy. This is not the case; a tan is a sign of your skin cells in trauma and is definitely not something to die for.

The Victorian Government is committed to tightly regulating the industry. So what can you do?

Do you know someone who uses a solarium – your sister, mother, friend, brother? Do they know the risks? Try to keep your friends safe by instigating conversations about the risks. Tanning is also a major cause of premature ageing. It is believed that as much as 80% of premature facial ageing, such as wrinkles and fine lines, are due to sun exposure.

It would be great if everyone felt happy in their own skin whatever their natural skin colour. Ultimately, if you feel you must have a tan then use fake tan rather than visiting a solarium or sunbaking. But remember, if you've used fake tan then sun protection is still required when the UV is 3 or above.

 This research was conducted by Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and it measured UV emissions from solariums in Victoria and NSW.

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