As the post-Christmas January blues take hold, young people are risking damage to their health and appearance by using sunbeds on the recommendation of friends and family, according to a new survey by Cancer Research UK.

The poll of almost 3000 UK adults, was commissioned by the charity’s new SunSmart initiative R UV UGLY?. This poll found that of 176 sunbed users aged 18-24, 40 per cent received encouragement from friends, and 26 per cent received encouragement from a family member or partner when using a sunbed for the first time. The main reason these 18-24 year olds first used a sunbed was to improve their appearance (30 per cent chose this option).

Using a sunbed for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 75 per cent. Over the last thirty years in Britain malignant melanoma incidence rates have more than quadrupled, and the disease is the second most common form of cancer in 15 -34 year olds.

Despite this, around one in four (26 per cent) of the survey’s sunbed users aged 18-24 said they weren’t bothered by the serious health warnings around sunbed use. This could be because over half the people in this age group (53 per cent) believed that tanned skin has become more fashionable.

More than 60 per cent of sunbed users in the 18-24 year old group (62 per cent) admitted they first used a sunbed when they were 18 or under.

Following new legislation introduced last year banning under-18s from using sunbeds, this would now be illegal.

Chris Lunn, SunSmart campaign manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s surprising to see that two thirds (66 per cent) of young sunbed users received encouragement from a friend, family member or partner when using a sunbed for the first time, despite the long-term health risks they pose.

“By highlighting the health risks, we hope people will become more aware that using sunbeds can increase the chances of developing skin cancer, and so discourage their friends and family from using them in future.

“We may all want to improve our appearance to help alleviate the mid-winter gloom, but sunbeds aren’t the answer. As well as increasing your risk of skin cancer, you could be left with wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots. If you must have a tan, faking it is the best option.”

The R UV UGLY? initiative sees Cancer Research UK team up with sk:n to offer free skin assessments at its 37 clinics nationwide, to raise awareness amongst Britons about the skin damage, premature ageing and health dangers of sunbed use.

Sk:n is offering exclusive ‘two for none’ skin assessments (usually £25 each) to encourage people to come along with a friend or family member to experience the scans for free. The clinic will use specialist skin-scanning technology to highlight the hidden damage, such as dehydration and premature wrinkles, lurking beneath the skin’s surface caused by overexposure to UV, both from sunbeds and the sun.

Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart R UV UGLY? campaign is offering free skin assessments at all UK sk:n clinics. To book call 0800 822 3037 quoting R UV UGLY?, text R UV UGLY? to 63757 (standard rates apply), or visit


For media enquires contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8315 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.


Summary of key findings

  • 66 per cent of sunbed users aged 18-24 first used a sunbed after encouragement from a friend, family member or partner
  • 42 per cent of 18-24 year old sunbed users, have used a sunbed at least once in the last three months
  • 26 per cent of sunbed users aged 18-24 said they were not bothered by the serious health warnings that come with sunbed use
  • 53 per cent of 18-24 year olds believed that tanned skin is now more fashionable
  • 62 per cent 18-24 year old sunbed users admitting first using a sunbed when they were 18 or under

About the survey

The poll was conducted online by OnePoll from 22nd to 29th December. A total of 2,982 UK respondents aged 18 and above were polled.

About R UV UGLY?

R UV UGLY? is a Cancer Research UK SunSmart campaign running in England, funded by the Department of Health
Be Sunsmart.  Enjoy the sun safely
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About sk:n

sk:n is the expert voice in modern skincare. For over 20 years sk:n has providedbreakthrough skincare treatments, products and services. The 37 nationwide clinics are staffed by over 30 medical doctors and talented nursing staff, uniquely experienced and qualified to maximise your skin’s beauty potential. Efficacy, ethics and expertise are the guiding principals that ensure sk:n’s place on the ‘Treatments you can trust register’ and their consistent collaboration with the British Skin Foundation. Their portfolio of transformative non-invasive treatments and carefully calibrated product formulas include the treatment of acne, poor and dull complexions, wrinkles and lines, unwanted facial and body hair, sagging and loose skin, unwanted tattoos, pigmentation problems, scarring, thread veins, thin lips, stretch marks and the removal of moles, warts, milia, skin tags and verrucae.  With a blend of technologies including lasers, injectibles, chemical peels and microdermabrasion, sk:n creates optimum results for its clients.  For fresh youthful and beautiful skin, speak to the expert voice in sk:n care.