North East of England named sunbed capital of the UK

The North East of England has been named the ‘sunbed capital of the UK’ after data released today shows nearly half of adults in the region use sunbeds. The survey, carried out by the charity Melanoma Focus, found that 43% of adults living in the North East of England say they have used sunbeds at least once. Scotland was shown to have the second highest usage in the UK with 38% saying they had used sunbeds followed by Yorkshire and the Humber at 33%. [1]

Across the UK, around a third (30%) of adults say they have used sunbeds at least once despite 79% of all respondents saying they were aware that the use of sunbeds can increase the risk of skin cancer. Some studies have found that first exposure to indoor tanning before age 35 years was associated with a 75% increased risk of developing skin cancer. [2]

Sunbeds were shown to be least popular in Northern Ireland with 20% of respondents reporting using them. This was followed by the South East, East Midlands and West Midlands where all resulted in 26% of adults saying they had used sunbeds at least once. Across all regions, young people are more likely to report using sunbeds – 42% of 18 to 25 year olds compared to 18% of 66 to 75 year olds. [3]

Females were more likely to be aware of the perils of using sunbeds with 86% saying they knew that the use of sunbeds can increase the risk of skin cancer but sunbed usage was similar for men and women. [4]

1 in 36 men and 1 in 47 women in the UK will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and, across the country, accounts for 1% of all cancer deaths and kills 2,300 people per year. Yet 86% of melanomas are preventable.[5]

Ultraviolet radiation, which comes from the sun or from sunbeds, is an important factor that increases the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. It is estimated that in the UK about 100 people die each year from melanomas that are due to sunbed use. [6]

Susanna Daniels, CEO at Melanoma Focus said:

“These results are surprising, not only because the survey results show that sunbed use is very high in some parts of the country but that their popularity does not seem to correlate directly with colder areas of the UK. “This would suggest that sunbed usage is down to fashion and cultural influences as opposed to geographical location. “We strongly recommend that the use of sunbeds is avoided by everyone, the increased risks of melanoma skin cancer are significant.”

Leah Roach, 32, from Sidcup in London was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2020. She said:

“I’ve used sunbeds and sunbathed in the past. I didn’t take the risk of skin cancer seriously even though my grandmother died of melanoma in the 70s. In June 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, I had a persistent cough, back pain and had a lump in my back. I ended up going to A&E with breathlessness and, after having scans and a biopsy, I was extremely shocked to be diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma skin cancer. “The cancer had spread throughout my body so I ended up needing immunotherapy and also major surgery to remove two tumours from my abdomen. I spent two months in hospital on my own, it was very lonely. “My last two scans have been clear and I’m feeling positive but my message to anyone else using sunbeds is that it’s not worth it. Cancer is awful and potentially life-shortening. Use fake tan or enjoy the skin tone you have. It’s not worth ruining or losing your life for the sake of tanning.”

Professor Catherine Harwood, Consultant Dermatologist at Barts Health and Trustee at Melanoma Focus, said:

“There is significant evidence that sunbeds are a risk factor for skin cancer, particularly in young people with pale skin. So, from the medical perspective, I would strongly advise that sunbeds are avoided by all.”

[1] See regional breakdown data table in notes to editors. View the full data tables here.
[3]View the full data tables here
[4] View the full data tables here.
[5]Melanoma skin cancer statistics | Cancer Research UK
[6]Sunbeds policy | Department of Health (