Action to tackle Surrey’s high skin cancer rate

Sunbed protrait

Surrey County Council has taken action to protect young people from skin cancer, as NHS figures reveal the county is a malignant melanoma hotspot.

According to the NHS’s latest Surrey health profile, cases of malignant melanoma in the county are ‘significantly higher’ than the UK average with 168 incidents in the county each year. Surrey’s rate is 15.1 cases per 100,000 people compared to an England average of 13.6.*

With this in mind, trading standards officers carried out an operation to uncover tanning salons that were willing to allow under 18s to illegally use a sunbed.

A 15-year-old volunteer took part in a test purchasing exercise at 16 tanning businesses across Surrey. Four of the businesses failed because they were willing to let the teenage girl use a sunbed.**

The owners and staff were given warnings and told they could face a fine of up to £20,000 if they are caught out again.

Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “It’s against the law to let anyone under 18 use a sunbed, or even offer them the opportunity to do so. Sunbeds give out ultra violet (UV) rays that can cause skin cancer. People who have excessive exposure at a young age have a larger risk of developing melanoma.

“Young people’s bodies are constantly developing so it’s not advisable to expose them to radiation in this way. I’d urge all tanning salons to be very strict about checking the age of their customers.”

The test purchasing operation was carried out in partnership with local environmental health teams. Businesses in Elmbridge, Runnymede, Spelthorne, Epsom and Ewell, Tandridge and Guildford were tested. Premises failed the test in Caterham, Egham, East Molesey and Ashford.


Media requiring more information can contact Surrey County Council senior media officer James Oxley at

Notes to editors

* Age and sex standardised rate per 100,000 population, aged under 75. You can view information about Surrey’s skin cancer rate on the NHS Surrey health profile here.

** The volunteer was not exposed to a sun lamp at any time, but the test purchase got to the point where she could have chosen to do so.

It is now illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds. The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act, which came into force in April 2011, prevents those under 18 from:

• being allowed to use tanning salons and sunbeds at premises including beauty salons, leisure centres, gyms and hotels
• being offered the use of a sunbed
• being allowed to be in an area that is reserved for sunbed users


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