A tan to die for

| February 16, 2024

collarium sunbeds are being advertised for commercial use in parts of Australia, despite sunbeds or tanning beds being banned for commercial use in Australia for close to 10 years. Below Australian experts comment.

Organisation/s: Australian Science Media Centre

Funder: No funder


Grade 1 carcinogen

Professor Marion Eckert is a Professor of Cancer Nursing and the Director of the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre at the University of South Australia. She notes that “The International Agency for Research on Cancer classed tanning beds as a Grade 1 carcinogen—the same category as cigarettes and asbestos, in 2009. As a result of the increased evidence of the risks posed, in 2012, the New South Wales Government announced a complete ban on commercial solaria tanning units, to take effect in 2014 and then other states across the county followed suit. Solaria emit levels of UV radiation up to three times as strong as the midday summer sun; some (about 15%) even exceed this level and emit UV radiation six times as strong.
Collarium tanning beds are often marketed as a safer alternative to traditional tanning beds because they primarily emit UVA radiation, which is thought to stimulate collagen production and provide a tan without causing the immediate burning effects associated with UVB radiation. Some companies promote collariums as a ‘safer way of tanning’ due to this emphasis on UVA radiation and the purported collagen-stimulating benefits. However, it’s important to note that UVA radiation, while less likely to cause immediate sunburn, can still penetrate deep into the skin and contribute to long-term skin damage and increased cancer risk.
Additionally, the claim of stimulating collagen production may be exaggerated, or misleading, as excessive UV exposure can actually break down collagen and accelerate skin aging. Collariums still pose significant health risks, including skin cancer and premature aging. Skin cancer is the most common cancer for people aged 25-29. Someone dies every six hours from skin cancer in Australia, the last thing we need is misleading advertising and if anything, these tanning beds used and promoted in Australia.”

How sun beds were banned

Associate Professor Ken Karipidis, the Assistant Director of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s Health Impact Assessment, agreed that “Commercial solaria are prohibited by law in every state and territory in Australia because the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds increases the risk of developing skin cancers, which is a major cause of illness and increased mortality in Australia.
ARPANSA’s science-based health advice was instrumental in banning solariums in 2016. ARPANSA is currently supervising a PhD project which is investigating what regulations are needed to protect people from the health impact of non-ionising radiation in cosmetic procedures like these so-called Collariums.
If loopholes exist in commercial solaria regulations to allow UV to be used for other procedures this is something we will investigate because we know that overexposure to UV radiation causes skin cancer. ARPANSA advises that people should not be using Collariums or similar devices that expose them to harmful UV radiation.”

Collarium beds are not a safe option

Professor Grant McArthur AO is a Consultant Medical Oncologist and Head of the Molecular Oncology Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He is also Lorenzo Galli Chair of Melanoma and Skin Cancers at the University of Melbourne. He notes that “‘Collarium’ tanning beds deliver UV radiation of a narrower band than conventional solariums however still deliver UV radiation that can mutate skin cells and lead to cancer including deadly melanoma. Tanning itself is a sign of skin cells in trauma due to DNA damage activating a stress response that increases pigment in the skin, which we see as a tan.Broad spectrum sunscreens active against broad wavelengths of UV radiation are strongly recommended for protection to UV radiation as there is no safe UV radiation. Current state and territory laws and regulations should be used to take action against any commercial ‘collarium’ operator.”

Sun safety

Dr Joseph Scott, a Senior Lecturer at The University of the Sunshine Coast, has researched sun safety in Australian schools. He underlines that “People should not be confused about sun beds and cancer risks. The research is very clear. The use of ‘sun beds’ will increase your risk of developing melanoma and skin cancer. These machines work by providing direct UV radiation to the skin. So, whether it’s marketed to you as a ‘sun bed’, a ‘solarium’ or ‘collarium’, if you use it, you will have significantly greater risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.
Young people are at a particularly higher risk, and need to be hypervigilant with protecting their skin as their skin is thinner and more susceptible to UV radiation. The use of solariums before the age of 25 has also shown to be strongly associated with development of skin cancer. Prior to the ban of solariums in Australia, it was estimated that one in six melanomas in Australians aged 18 to 29 years would be prevented by abolishing sun beds. Anyone ignoring the ban and purposely providing indoor tanning services is endangering Australians’ health and should be shut-down immediately.”