The Tanning Shop is dedicated to responsible tanning practices. Whilst research and regulation in relation to the tanning industry is welcomed and embraced, misrepresentation of research findings cannot be accepted.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reported a proposed connection between the use of sunbeds and melanoma risk on the basis of 7 epidemiological studies. However, the research conducted and referenced does not establish a definitive (statistically significant) association between sunbed use and melanoma and has been widely misrepresented in the media.

Research of any type must be structured in such a way that all variables (factors) are considered and published. Should a factor not be included, it is a “confounding variable” and must be reviewed in the research findings. Such confounding variables are;

  • The research subject’s lifetime UV exposure
  • Outdoor tanning practices
  • Unsupervised home tanning bed use
  • Medical UV exposure
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Geographical location and lifestyle.

These factors are rarely reported in the media as should be expected in a balanced, unbiased article despite being important research variables mentioned in the IARC report (IARC 2008). However, the responsibility of communicating accurate information to the media lies with the publishers of the report.

Whilst research of this nature is essential in relation to regulation of the tanning industry, demonising the use of sunbeds is counter-productive and inaccurate. The same applies to communicating research findings as definitive that are not statistically significant. A further consideration, is that the studies only represent a very small sample of a limited population and as such, a rational, balanced approach needs to be adopted when reviewing the results.

Sunbed use is measurable and regulated whereas outdoor UV exposure is not.

Dr. M. Papas presented in Montreal at the 3rd North American Congress of Epidemiology meeting in June 2011 and the omission of these factors was highlighted by summarising the key research data of the 7 epidemiological studies cited by the IARC. (Papas et al, 2011)

Dr. Papas demonstrated that when commercial sunbed use was reviewed in isolation of these other factors, there was no significant association between sunbed use and melanoma risk. Indeed, over half of subjects in the summary practiced unsupervised home tanning and medical phototherapy sessions. (Papas et al, 2011)

The highest risk identified in the limited studies (which did not prduce a statistically significant result) was associated with home sunbed use. Should the current scaremongering in relation to responsible, commercial sunbed use continue, more and more individuals will turn to home sunbed use

It is far easier to monitor and regulate UV exposure in a reputable salon than in the outdoor sunlight. The message should not be to boycott commercial sunbed use, but to educate clients to protect themselves fully in outdoor sunlight and use sunbeds at a session length and frequency appropriate for their skin type and tanning history.



Papas MA, Chappelle AH, Grant WB. The Effect of Sunbed Location on Melanoma Risk: A Pooled Analysis

IARC Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of

sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. Int J Cancer 2006; 120(5):1116-1122.


Walter SD, Marrett LD, From L, Hertzman C, Shannon HS, Roy P. The association of cutaneous

malignant melanoma with the use of sunbeds and sunlamps. Am J Epidemiol 1990;131:232-43.


Chen YT, Dubrow R, Zheng T, et al. Sunlamp use and the risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma: a

population-based case-control study in Connecticut, USA. Int J Epidemiol 1998;27:758-65.


Westerdahl J, Ingvar C, Masback A, Jonsson N, Olsson H. Risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma in

relation to the use of sunbeds: further evidence for UV-A carcinogenicity. Br J Cancer 2000;82:1593-9.


Bataille V, Boniol M, De Vries E, et al. A multicentre epidemiological study on sunbed use and

Funding provided by the Vitamin D Alliance cutaneous melanoma in Europe. Eur J Cancer 2005;41:2141-9.


Internet References




Vitamin D and cancer / a report of the IARC Working Group on Vitamin D (IARC Working Group Reports ; 5. International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2008-11-24, WHO Press, World Health Organization, 20 Avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.



Differential Risk of Malignant Melanoma by Sunbed Exposure Type

Mia A. Papas, PhD1, Anne H. Chappelle, PhD1, William B. Grant, PhD 2

1Chappelle Toxicology Consulting, 2Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center