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About the sunbed survey research

Cancer Research UK was commissioned by the National Cancer Action Team, supported by the Department of Health, to explore the extent and patterns of sunbed use among children in England.

The three key questions to be answered were:

  • What is the national prevalence of sunbed use among 11-17 year olds in England?
  • Is there variation in the use of sunbeds across the country?
  • If young people are using sunbeds, how, when and where are they using them?

The main findings of the research:

  • More than one quarter of a million children aged 11-17 are risking their health by seeking a tan from sunbeds
  • In England, on average, six per cent of 11-17 year olds use sunbeds. In Liverpool and Sunderland 50 per cent of 15-17 year-old girls aim to tan on sunbeds, and more than two in five use them at least once a week.

The results were published in a peer reviewed article and a letter that both appeared in the British Medical Journal, these and other reports and associated articles are available from this page.

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Letter published in the BMJ

In November 2009 a letter detailing some of the main findings of of the surveys was published in the British Medical Journal. (November 12th 2009)

We issued a press release to accompany the publication of the letter and received extensive press coverage.

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Full paper published in the BMJ

This paper is a peer reviewed paper that presents the combined analysis of all the surveys that were commissioned. The paper was published in the British Medical Journal (March 18th 2010). 

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Summary report

This report summarises the key findings from all of the research undertaken to answer the three key questions around sunbed use in children.

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The "National Prevalence" Study (Part A)

The final analysis of the BMRB omnibus study of national prevalence of sunbed use by 11-17 year olds in England, along with a detailed explanation of the methodology.

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The "Six Cities" Study (Part B)

A full report of the quantitative research undertaken to explore and establish the regional variation in sunbed use by 11-17 year olds, across six “cities” in England by LVQ Research Ltd.

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Qualitative exploration of underage use of sunbeds (Part C)

Qualitative research was required as an extension of the scoping study, to strengthen and confirm data. The research explored, among other things, the reasons children were using sunbeds, who with and where. This report is a presentation of the work carried out by CM insight with young sunbed users. 

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BMRB Omnibus questionnaire

The questionnaire used by BMRB to carry out the national survey of sunbed use in children.

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LVQ Research Ltd questionnaire

The questionnaire used by LVQ Research Ltd to carry out the "Six Cities" study.

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The policy implications

The findings of our research into sunbed use in children show that more than a quarter of a million children can and have accessed a sunbed. Cancer Research UK has been monitoring the policy on sunbed use and this evidence has conclusively shown that the current voluntary system of legislation has failed to prevent children from accessing and using sunbeds. 

The law therefore needs to be changed in order to protect children from the harms that they cause, to ensure that people are fully informed of the risks associated with sunbed use and to ensure that publicly available sunbeds can only be used under supervised conditions. 

Adults should be free to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to use sunbeds but the law must also ensure that appropriate information is provided in tanning salons so that they do so fully aware of the associated risks.

For full details of Cancer Research UK’s policy position on sunbeds, read our policy statetment.

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Updated: 7 April 2010