Many Australians still mistakenly believe that a tan is a sign of good health and that solariums provide a safer way to tan than the sun. Whether you’re lying on the beach or in a solarium, there is no such thing as a safe way to tan. If you’re considering visiting a solarium, it’s important to know the risks.
What are solariums?
Solariums (also called solaria, sunbeds or tanning booths) are fitted with light tubes that release concentrated artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation is a type of energy produced naturally by the sun, or artificially in solariums.
Whether UV radiation comes from the sun or a solarium, it can cause skin damage, ageing and wrinkling of the skin, eye damage and skin cancer. Skin cells in the epidermis (the top or outer layer of the skin) produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its colour. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, melanin is produced and the skin darkens or ‘tans’.
However, a tan is much more than skin turning brown. Even a light tan is a sign that your skin has been exposed to too much UV radiation and that damage has occurred to the cells below.
Are solariums safe?
Solariums do not provide a safe way to tan. Just like the sun, solariums release UV radiation, which can seriously damage skin, harm your eyes and cause skin cancer.
Tanning in solariums can be especially dangerous, as the UV radiation from solariums can be much stronger than the midday summer sun.
A recent review of the research on the link between skin cancer and solarium use found that the risk of skin cancer from any use of a solarium was 20%. This rose to 59% for people who used solariums before 35 years of age. Each year in Australia, as many as 280 new melanomas, over 40 melanoma related deaths and some 2,500 new squamous cell carcinomas are caused by solarium use.
Furthermore, solariums can cause:
• Burning, skin irritation, swelling, blistering and pain
• Premature ageing of the skin (wrinkles, blotches, skin thickening)
• Eye damage.
Legislation in NSW
On 31 December 2014, commercial solariums were banned in NSW. This means it is illegal for any business or individual to offer UV tanning services for a fee. Anyone caught providing such services risks incurring fines of up to $44,000.