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Sunbeds for cosmetic use

Use of sunbeds is associated with increased risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma, especially if tanning sessions are begun at an early age, or with frequent and extended use. From 1 July 2012 Norway has an 18 year age limit for sunbed use.

Nordic radiation protection and health authorities have issued a joint advisory against the use of sunbeds. It is internationally agreed upon that the following groups of people should not use artificial tanning devices:

  • Persons under the age of 18 years
  • Persons not able to tan at all or not able to tan without burning when exposed to the sun;
  • Persons suffering from sunburn;
  • Persons suffering from, previously suffering from or predisposed to skin cancer, or with family suffering from skin cancer;
  • Persons who tend to freckle;
  • Persons who have a large number of skin moles or abnormal discoloured patches on the skin;
  • Persons with a natural red hair colour;
  • Persons having a history of frequent severe sunburn during childhood;
  • Persons under a doctors care for diseases that involve photosensitivity or persons receiving photosensitising medications.

Advice to users of artificial tanning devices

If you intend to use a sunbed anyway to achieve or maintain a tan, it is important to ensure that it has been approved by NRPA. Furthermore, users should endeavour not to exceed recommended exposure times, and they should ensure that their annual dose of UV radiation from the use of sunbeds remains as low as possible. Pay special attention to the following:

  • Always wear protective goggles;
  • Remove all cosmetics well in advance of exposure, and do not apply sunscreens;
  • Avoid intensified exposure through the use of medicines that increase sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation. If in doubt, seek medical advice;
  • Allow at least 48 hours between the first two exposures;
  • Do not both sunbathe and use a sunbed on the same day;
  • Follow the recommendations concerning exposure times, exposure intervals and distance from the lamp;
  • Seek medical advice if persistent lumps, sores or pigmented moles develop on the skin.

Is sunbed exposure a lower health risk than exposure to the sun?

We need sun exposure. Extensive tanning, however, increases the risk of skin cancer, and both UVB and UVA radiation can contribute to cancer. Acute sunburn and excessive doses of radiation in the tanning salon are both harmful. Furthermore, too much radiation can harm the elasticity of the skin and leads to premature ageing and the earlier appearance of wrinkles. There are absolutely NO grounds whatsoever to support the notion that radiation from a sunbed is less harmful than radiation from the sun. UV radiation from an artificial tanning device is mainly the same as from the sun. However, UV radiation emitted from an approved sunbed is much more intense than the Norwegian summer sun. A sunbed may emit up to 50% more UVB radiation than the Norwegian summer sun and 2–4 times as much UVA radiation. Furthermore, the whole body is exposed to UV in a sunbed, whereas maximum half the body can be exposed out in the sun.

Should I use sunbed during the winter months to avoid Vitamin D deficiency?

There is no need to use sunbeds to obtain sufficient levels of Vitamin D. You may add the vitamin either through the regular food intake or in the form of a dietary supplement. There are many positive effects with healthy eating habits and proper nutrition.

For most people, sun exposure (UVB) of the skin is sufficient to synthesis Vitamin D during the summer months. A working group from the National Council of Nutrition has recently reviewed the need for measures to obtain sufficient Vitamin D levels in the Norwegian population. In conclusion, most Norwegians have sufficient levels of the vitamin, and higher levels compared to sunnier countries in Southern Europe. It seems that Norwegians compensate for less UV exposure be eating more fatty fish, cod oil, Vitamin D supplements and food with Vitamin D fortified fat. During the late winter months the Vitamin D level in the blood may be too low, and the working group recommends regular fish meals. Alternatively, those with low fish intake and low sun exposure should use Vitamin D supplements.

Be aware that sunbeds are meant for achieving or maintaining a tan, and not optimal for Vitamin D synthesis. Furthermore, the exposure time for Vitamin D synthesis in the skin is much shorter than the time needed to achieve a tan.

Should I visit a tanning salon before a vacation in the sun?

No, it is not recommended. Instead you should follow the sunwise advices from the Norwegian Cancer Society while being on your vacation. Many people become sunburned while acquiring a tan at the sun tanning salon because the UV radiation is much more intense than the Norwegian summer sun. Sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. UVA radiation causes the pigment that is already present in the skin to darken, but does not contribute to increased production of pigment or to the thickening of the outer layer of skin which provides protection against further doses of UV radiation. It is UVB radiation that gives rise to this effect. This thickening of the skin affords better protection to light skin types upon continued exposure than the brown colour does. Visiting the tanning salon before a vacation may cause prolonged sunbathing during the vacation and thereby causes excessive UV exposure of the skin and increasing the risk of cancer.

Staffed tanning salons

The government have decided to reveal  requirements that all tanning studios in Norway must have trained staff to guide the customers until 1 January 2015. During this period alternative ways to enforce the age limit of 18 years  will be considered.