Ultraviolet radiation (UV)

More can be done to restrict sunbeds to prevent increasing rates of skin cancer

Tanning beds
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21 June 2017, GENEVA - Sunbed use is estimated to be responsible for more than 450 000 non-melanoma skin cancer cases and more than 10 000 melanoma cases each year in the United States of America, Europe and Australia combined. Policies to limit the use of artificial tanning devices (sunbeds) are needed to reduce the associated health risks, such as melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, says a new WHO report. The largest portion of users are women, and in particular adolescents and young adults.


Key topics

What is UV radiation?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun. Whereas UVC rays (wavelengths of 100-280 nm) are absorbed by the atmospheric ozone, most radiation in the UVA range (315-400 nm) and about 10 % of the UVB rays (280-315 nm) reach the Earth’s surface. Both UVA and UVB are of major importance to human health.

Small amounts of UV are essential for the production of vitamin D in people, yet overexposure may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye and immune system.

Mandate

In response to Agenda 21, WHO in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Agency on Cancer Research and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection set up INTERSUN, the Global UV Project.

Essential interventions for UV protection

The rise in the incidence of skin cancers over the past decades is strongly related to increasingly popular outdoor activities and recreational exposure. Overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system. Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented, as UV damage is mostly avoidable.

Relevant events and activities

Contact

Please send us an e-mail to uvinfo@who.int

Radiation Programme
Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health
World Health Organization
CH1211 Geneva 27
Switzerland