Top of page Skip navigation

Malignant melanoma and sunbeds


The two paths to melanoma are:


High UV radiation exposure





UV exposure to continually exposed body sites (head/neck)





Malignant melanoma are more frequently fatal than NMSC’s with over 10,400 new cases reported in the UK in 2006, and over 2000 deaths in 2007 (Cancer Research UK, 2008). Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the fastest growing and spreads quickly, but is less common than NMSC.  UV radiation is the principal environmental cause of melanoma (Quintana et al, 2008).


Increased risk of melanoma with sun bed use:


The risk of malignant melanoma increases by 75% if the users first use of a sunbed is before the age of 35 years. Additionally the users risk of SCC is additionally increased (IARC Working Group, 2007). 82% of sunbed surveyed by Cancer Research UK (2008) first used a sun bed before 35 years.


Melanoma often occurs at a much younger age than many other cancers, resulting in a higher average number of years lost to death from this fatal disease.  In the UK, the average years of life lost for melanoma has been is high, and calculated as over 15 years per death (Burnet et al, 2005). If the costs to the NHS are included with the indirect costs (patient costs, morbidity and mortality costs), in the UK, the total estimated cost of skin cancer for 2002 was in excess of £190 million, with 63% of this value due to malignant melanoma (Morris et al, 2005). The increase in all skin cancers is mainly attributable to increases in sun bathing, although there is undoubtedly a component of increased risk due to sunbed usage.


Melanoma deaths associated with sunbeds

Due to the confounding effect of sun exposure, definitive data on sunbed mortality numbers is unknown. However, by using mathematical modeling, it is possible to make a crude estimate of the number of melanoma deaths per year due to the cosmetic use of sunbeds.

Using such a model, it has been estimated in the UK that sunbed use accounts for 100 deaths each year, and 370 new cases of melanoma (Difey, 2008).



It is estimated that, by enforcing the UK sunbed regulation Act (2011) of prohibiting under 18’s using sunbeds, and restricting people with skin type 1,  between 18 – 31 melanomas will be avoided per 100,000 people each year  (Hirst et al, 2008).