Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority

Use of sunbeds

Use of sunbeds increases the risk of getting skin cancer, and the earlier you start and the more often you use the sunbed, the greater the risk. Therefore, we have an 18 years age limit for using sunbeds in Norway, as in several other countries. If you choose to use a sunbed, there are some precautions you should take.

Last updated: 12. januar 2021 1537

IN SHORT

  • We have an 18 years age limit in Norway for using sunbeds, and the tanning studio must check your age before you may use the sunbed.
  • Use of sunbeds increases the risk of getting skin cancer, and the risk is highest if you start at young age and use the sunbed frequently. There is no safe limit for exposure to UV radiation (UVR) from sunbeds.  
  • Use of sunbeds is not suitable as a source of vitamin D.
  • To use a sunbed just before a sun holiday is not smart but increases instead the risk of skin injuries.
  • If you choose to use a sunbed, there are some precautions you should follow.

18 years age limit and age control

It is forbidden to offer sunbeds to persons under 18 years of age in Norway. The age limit was introduced because using sunbeds increases the risk of getting skin cancer, and the risk is highest if you start at young age. Frequent use also increases the risk. There is no safe limit for exposure to UV radiation (UVR) from sunbeds, and the Nordic radiation protection authorities advise against sunbed use in a joint statement.   

All companies and organisations offering sunbeds must have an age control system, ensuring that only persons over the age of 18 have access to the sunbeds. In staffed services, the staff will check your age upon arrival (valid ID: driver's license, passport or debit card with photo). In unstaffed services, electronic check of age may be used, and with this method login with “ID-porten” (Bank ID and others) is used for identification.

Risk groups

Using a sunbed is particularly risky and must be avoided if you:

  • Have fair skin that sunburns easily and rarely tans
  • Have red hair and freckles
  • Have many or irregularly shaped naevi (moles) or unevenly coloured pigmentation patches
  • Have a history of frequent severe sunburn during childhood
  • Have or have had skin cancer or have a first-degree relative with a history of melanoma
  • Are under medical care for diseases that involve photosensitivity
  • Are receiving photosensitising medications

Sunbeds not suitable as a source of vitamin D

A group of Norwegian health authorities and research communities have issued a joint statement (in Norwegian only) stating that sunbeds are carcinogenic and not suitable as a source of vitamin D.

Even though the use of sunbeds may induce production of vitamin D in the skin, the increased risk of getting skin cancer is far higher and better documented than positive health effects from an increased level of vitamin D.

If you have a low level of vitamin D, you can achieve a sufficient level through your diet or by taking vitamin D supplements.

Avoid sunbed use just before a sun holiday

A tan, caused by sunbathing in the sun or in a sunbed, protects the skin to a very small extent from damage by further sunbathing. However, skin thickening, which often occurs in the course of a summer with sunbathing and which is mainly caused by UVB exposure, provides some protection.

Using a sunbed just before a sun holiday may contribute to obtaining an immediate tan. This is because sunbeds emit large amounts of UVA radiation and UVA darkens pre-existing pigment in the skin. This tan does not however protect the skin from damage caused by further sunbathing.  Furthermore, this brief sunbed use contributes only minimally to the thickening of the skin, as this thickening process requires time. In other words, sunbed use just before a holiday does not provide the skin with better protection against the intense holiday sun. Furthermore, you may be misled to prolong your sun exposure. The best course of action is to limit the time you spend in the holiday sun, especially in the midday hours, to seek shade, to wear a protective hat, sunglasses and loose clothing, and to apply plenty of sunscreen.

In addition to the extra amount of UVR you are exposed to during the holiday, the sunbed use also exposes the body to a large dose of intense radiation. It is also important to remember that the entire body is exposed all at once in a sunbed, while only (maximum) half of the body is exposed to the sun at any one point in time. Using a sunbed right before a sun holiday therefore provides minimal skin protection but can simultaneously contribute to a large dose of UVR that may lead to skin damage and an increased risk of cancer.

Precautions when using sunbeds

If you choose to use a sunbed, you should take some precautions:

  • Follow the exposure times recommended for the specific sunbed
  • Always use protective goggles
  • Do not use the sunbed if the timer is faulty or the filter is broken or removed (glass, acrylics or plexiglass in front of facial lamps and other lamps)
  • Remove cosmetics, perfumes and skin care products well in advance of exposure and do not use any sunscreens or products that accelerate tanning
  • Do not use the sunbed if you are receiving photosensitising medications. In case of doubt, seek medical advice.
  • Allow at least 48 h between the first two exposures
  • Do not sunbathe and use a sunbed on the same day
  • Seek medical advice if persistent lumps or sores appear on the skin or if there are changes in pigmented moles
  • Protect sensitive skin parts such as scars, tattoos and genitals from exposure
  • If you have acne, eczema or psoriasis you should seek medical advice for an evaluation of whether these conditions should be treated medically with phototherapy.  Do not use a sunbed in order to get rid of these conditions by yourself.

Companies or organisations offering sunbeds must fulfil several requirements given in the Radiation Protection Regulations. You may read more about these requirements on the page Information to sunbed owners.

Something wrong with the sunbeds or violation of the regulations? 

If you experience technical faults or other problems with sunbeds or premises, you should contact the owner/person responsible for the daily operation of the sunbeds as soon as possible. For unattended facilities, contact information must be available on a notice in the premises or the like. If the equipment does not work properly or is damaged and may pose a risk of sunburns or other injury to users, it is important that the person responsible for the sunbeds is notified immediately so that he/she can take the sunbeds out of use to avoid further injuries. Examples of such cases may be cracked or removed filters in front of facial lamps or the timer controlling the length of exposure being defective.

You may also contact the municipality if you detect or suspect that there is something wrong with the sunbeds, premises or if you suspect violation of the sunbed regulations. The municipality is responsible for supervising sunbeds, both regarding the radiation from the sunbeds and hygienic conditions.

 
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