There is No Such Thing as a Safe Tan, Warns Yorkshire Cancer Research

29 May 2018

Yorkshire Cancer Research is warning those looking for a ‘healthy glow’ this summer to think twice before using sunbeds.

The charity has refuted claims made in a new campaign launched by the Sunbed Association to drive people into its tanning salons.

The organisation made a series of untrue assertions through its social media channels, including one that stated there is no evidence that sunbeds cause skin cancer.

Sunbeds have been classified by the World Health Organisation as a ‘Group 1 carcinogen’, a category that requires the highest level of evidence that a substance causes cancer 1.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research & Services at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “The Sunbed Association claims there is no evidence that moderate use of a commercial sunbed will increase your risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. This is not true – using a sunbed will increase your risk and there is a wealth of evidence pointing to this fact.

“Publishing incorrect information without citing evidence is extremely irresponsible and harmful to public health. There is no such thing as a safe tan. We must ensure that those wishing to use a sunbed are aware of the dangers so they can make an informed decision.”

In 2015, 1,167 people in Yorkshire were diagnosed with melanoma. Cases of melanoma in Yorkshire have been gradually increasing since 2001 2.

86% of cases are linked to UV radiation found in sunlight and light emitted by sunbed lamps 3. Exposure to UV rays, regardless of whether the skin burns or tans, can cause both damage to DNA and the rapid cell growth needed for a tumour to develop 4.

The risks of using sunbeds are greater for younger people. Evidence shows that exposure to UV rays before the age of 25 greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life 5.

Dr Griffiths continued: “Using a sunbed does not help your skin ‘prepare’ for a summer holiday, and DNA damage can happen even if your skin tans easily. The evidence also shows that any benefits from exposure to UV light, including vitamin D, are outweighed by the dangers 6.

“Nearly all cases of melanoma are avoidable if the right precautions are taken. There are plenty of fake tan products on the high street that will give you a healthy glow for the summer. There’s no need to risk your life for a tan.”

Dr Walayat Hussain, Consultant Dermatologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “The UK is experiencing a tsunami of skin cancer. It is a problem that is continuing to rise. There is no doubt that UV exposure is the greatest risk factor for this and so public education is of primary importance.

“It’s quite clear that sunbeds are to skin cancer what cigarettes are to lung cancer and heart disease. As a dermatologist that deals with skin cancer day in day out I strongly advise against using them.”

For more information about the dangers of sunbeds, please visit

Spotting the signs of skin cancer

If you notice any changes to your skin, you should contact your doctor straight away. If cancer is diagnosed early, it can often be treated more successfully.

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin.

Other signs include:

  • A new growth or sore that does not heal
  • A spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts
  • A mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs.

You can check your moles by using the NHS’s ABCDE guide. To find out more visit and search for ‘ABCDE moles’.


Tips for staying safe in the sun

  • Stay in the shade – Spend time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, usually between 11am and 3pm
  • Cover up – Wear clothes that protect you from the sun, including a wide-brimmed hat and good quality sunglasses
  • Wear sunscreen – Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and a 4 or 5 star UVA rating. Remember to reapply throughout the day, especially after swimming, sweating or towel drying.
  • Watch the clock – Take extra care in sunnier climates – you may burn quickly, even when it is cloudy or when it’s not hot.



  3. Parkin, D. M. (2011). 1. The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. British journal of cancer, 105(S2), S2.
  5. NHS choices, Sunscreen and sun safety,


Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email:

Notes to Editors

  • Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
  • We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
  • Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
  • Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
  • We aim to:
    • Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
    • Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
    • Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
    • Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
    • Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
  • For further information, please visit or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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