When it comes to radiation, some of the most dangerous home-use appliances are sun beds. They produce ultraviolet radiation with which it is possible to tan, and in the worst case, burn skin. A permanent tan and repeated burning of the skin significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. Use of sun beds should be limited.
Acquiring a tan from a solarium is not safer than exposure to natural sunlight. The damage caused by UV radiation is the same, independent of the source. Studies published over the last few years show that heavy use of sun beds increases the risk of melanoma. The damage caused depends on the power of the sun bed, individual skin sensitivity, and how heavy the use is.
The use of a sun bed during pregnancy does not damage the development of the foetus. The effects of the UV radiation are limited to the mother’s skin.
Checklist for sunbed user
- A visit to a solarium should not be so long that the skin is red after the session. Be especially careful during the first session, especially if the skin is not already tanned. Five minutes is a suitable starting time for most people. Adjust the session length depending on your own skin type.
- Follow all instructions and use the device only for as long as recommended in the user instructions. Tanning facility personnel must give instructions to users without being asked for them.
- Many ill-effects of UV radiation depend on the amount of radiation exposure accrued over a lifetime. Limit your number of sessions to ten times per year and monitor your exposure to sunlight.
- Always use eye protection. Keeping your eyes closed does not offer enough protection for the strong UV radiation of a sun bed.
- If you are using some kind of medication, consult with your physician before visiting the solarium. Certain pharmaceuticals increase the sensitivity of the skin to light.
- Remove all cosmetic products before using a sun bed. Products which claim to deepen a tan should not be used. Certain cosmetic products increase the sensitivity of the skin to light, and increase the risk of burning.
- You should not try to treat skin diseases yourself by using a sun bed. Ask for advice from your dermatologist. There are special UV devices for medicinal use.
- Monitor your skin and consult your physician if moles on your skin begin to shrink, bleed, grow, or change in appearance. The possibility of curing skin cancer is much greater if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.
A sun bed shall not be used if
- you are under 18 years of age
- your skin is sensitive to the sun and you tan poorly
- you have been in the sun on the same day
- you use medication which causes sensitivity to UV radiation or you are ill
- you or a relative have or have had skin cancer
The decree by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM ), which limits exposure to non-ionising radiation, states the maximum exposure to ultraviolet radiation, significantly limiting the use of sun beds. People under the age of 18 years should not use sun beds unless under doctor’s orders.
In addition the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) and other Nordic radiation protection and health authorities from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland have stated in 2005 and 2007 that one should avoid the use of sun beds for tanning.
A closer look at sun beds
The safety requirements of solarium equipment are based on the European standard and the decree by the STM. The requirements are stated in more detail in STUK’s ST 9.1 directive (in Finnish), "Radiation Safety Requirements and Regulatory Control of Tanning Appliances". These instructions also deal with requirements concerning tanning facilities and the person in charge.
In Finland, only so-called UV type 3 solarium equipment is permitted, keeping in accordance with STUK’s ST 9.1 directive.