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14th Jun 2024

“It’s never safe to use a sunbed” – HSE issue crucial reminder after alarming stats

Sophie Collins


The HSE are issuing a crucial reminder about the significant risks associated with sunbed use

The government brought in legislation ten years ago – Public Health (Sunbed) Act 2014 – which was a pivotal public health measure aimed at reducing skin cancer rates by limiting UV radiation exposure, particularly among minors.

Enforced by the HSE National Environmental Health Service, the Public Health Act 2014 remains a cornerstone of Ireland’s efforts to protect public health. 

The Act prohibits sunbed use and sales to individuals under 18, bans certain marketing practices, and mandates clear warning notices. 

This legislation was crucial in safeguarding children from the harmful effects of UV radiation, which significantly increases the risk of melanoma in later life.

During a recent webinar, Professor Shirley Potter, a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Mater Hospital, emphasised the growing public health challenge posed by skin cancer in Ireland. 

“UV exposure is the primary cause of most skin cancers,” Professor Potter said. “Sunbed use carries substantial health risks, including skin cancer and eye damage.” 

She pushed for safer alternatives, such as using fake tan products, while cautioning that these do not provide sun protection. 

Professor Potter spoke of the importance of following the SunSmart 5 S’s even when using fake tan.

Alarming Stats on Sunbed Use

Findings from the 2022 Healthy Ireland survey highlight concerning trends:

  • 18% of people in Ireland have used a sunbed at some point in their lives.
  • 3% report regular or occasional use.
  • Usage is most prevalent among women under 45.
  • 4% indicate a likelihood of future sunbed use.
  • The highest potential future usage is among those aged 15 to 34, with 7% expressing an interest.

The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) has declared that no level of UV radiation from sunbeds is safe, reinforcing the call for caution.

Dr. Breeda Neville, a Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the HSE NCCP, highlighted a stark statistic: “Individuals who have used a sunbed at least once in their lifetime face a 20% higher risk of developing melanoma compared to those who have never used sunbeds.”

Dangers of Unregulated Products

The webinar also brought attention to the dangers of Melanotan II, an unlicensed product marketed as a tanning accelerant. 

Sean Cullen, Enforcement Operations Manager at the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), warned against its use and said: “Melanotan II is completely unregulated and unsafe. There is no legitimate source for this product.”

The HSE NCCP leads the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026, which includes an annual SunSmart communications campaign running from April to September. 

This initiative aims to educate the public on reducing skin cancer risk by avoiding UV exposure from both the sun and artificial sources like sunbeds.

For more information on sun safety and skin cancer prevention, visit HSE SunSmart.