• Sunbed use before the age of 35 increases risk of melanoma by 75%


The HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and Healthy Ireland are reminding people that using sunbeds increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies sunbeds as carcinogenic to humans1. Sunbeds give out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage the DNA in skin cells. Sunbeds can cause skin cancer, cataracts and skin to age prematurely, making it look coarse, leathery and wrinkled, as well as causing sunburn2.

Research shows that people who have used a sunbed before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%3.

It is against the law to allow people under the age of 18 to use sunbeds in sunbed premises.  It also against the law to sell or hire a sunbed to persons under 18 years of age. Exposure to UV radiation during childhood is particularly harmful. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable. Children who use sunbeds are much more likely to get the most serious type of skin cancer when they are adults4.

Dr Triona McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE’s NCCP says: “Sunbeds give out UV rays that increase the risk of developing skin cancer, both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. There is no safe limit for exposure to UV radiation from sunbeds.  It is important to remember that if you use fake tan it doesn’t protect you from UV rays. It is still important to protect yourself from the sun by following the SunSmart 5 S’s”. 

Skin cancer is the most common and fastest growing cancer in Ireland with almost 13,000 cases each year. Most skin cancers can be prevented by protecting skin from the sun when outdoors by following the SunSmart 5 S’s and by not using sunbeds. 

UV is usually strongest between 11am and 3pm from April to September in Ireland, even when it’s cloudy. Follow the SunSmart 5S’s of Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide, to make sure you are prepared and protected:

  • Slip on clothing: Cover skin as much as possible, wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts, clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through.
  • Slop on broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection and water-resistant. Reapply regularly. No sunscreen can provide 100% protection, it should be used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade.
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat: Protect your face, ears and neck.
  • Seek shade: Sit in the cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight. Use a sunshade on your buggy or pram. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
  • Slide on sunglasses: Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.

And remember,

To avoid getting a sunburn. Never use a sunbed.

For more information please see the SunSmart hub at www.hse.ie/SunSmart and check out #SunSmart on social media.

Notes to Editors:

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ireland, with over 13,000 cases annually. The number of people being diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland is rising rapidly. It is generally classified into two groups: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Between 2020 and 2045, it is predicted that the number of cases of melanoma per year among males and females will increase by 67% and NMSC to increase by 110%.

Healthy Ireland published the first National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2019-2022 for Ireland in May 2019.


1.     International Agency for Research on Cancer. Radiation Volume 100D A review of human carcinogens. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer: 2009.

2.     Diehl K, Bock C, Breitbart E.W, Greinert R. and Schneider S. Target groups for sunbed use prevention. Photodermatol. Photoimmunol. Photomed. 2013; 29: 291-299.

3.     International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. Int J Cancer 2006; 120: 1116–22.

4.     Markovic SN, Erickson LA, Rao RD, Malignant Melanoma in the 21st Century, Part 1: Epidemiology, Risk Factors, Screening, Prevention, and Diagnosis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007; 82 (3) 364-380

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