At least two of Rotorua's sunbed operators are following voluntary industry standards to reduce risks of skin cancer, but a Rotorua woman whose friend died of skin cancer is not sure that is enough.

In 2009, the World Health Organisation's cancer research agency said that ultraviolet-emitting sunbeds and tanning lamps were, like UV from the sun, a cause of cancer in humans.

It said the risk of developing skin cancer increased by 75 per cent for people who started using a sunbed before the age of 30.

Rotorua's Jeanette Miller has seen first-hand what using a sunbed regularly can do.


About 16 years ago her close friend from Rotorua died from skin cancer after regularly using sunbeds and sunbathing, and Mrs Miller agrees with recent calls to ban the beds. Mrs Miller said her friend knew about the risks, but carried on using sunbeds.

"She always wanted to be tanned. She said to me 'no way am I going to stay pale'."

Mrs Miller said her friend was naturally really pale, didn't wear sunscreen and used sunbeds about once a fortnight.

Her friend's doctor said it was likely the sunbed had contributed to causing the skin cancer. "I think they should be banned," Mrs Miller said.

Contours Rotorua Gym and Rotorua's Exquisite Total Image both follow the Australasian voluntary sunbed standards.

Neither owner thought sunbeds should be banned, but that precautions needed to be taken.

Contours Rotorua Gym owner Diana Murray said she was concerned about the risks of sunbeds so as well as following the standards the gym took strict precautions to keep sunbed users safe.

She talked to clients about risks and whether they had had skin cancer before. There were leaflets at the gym with information about the risks and use of sunbeds.


She found out about clients' skin type and only let them go for 10 minutes to start with. All clients had to wear protective safety goggles.

Exquisite Total Image salon owner Trish Laing said her salon followed similar procedures and looked at clients' medical history, moles and freckles before they could use the sun capsule. She said she had turned people away if they were too fair or had had cancer. She advised people use a lotion to protect the skin.

Ms Laing admitted there was no such thing as safe tanning, and encouraged sensible tanning. She said if people were going to do it, they needed the correct information. She thought there was a lot of scaremongering going on in the press.

"It's all about educating people to do it properly."

A Rotorua woman who only wanted to be known as Ms McRae, owns a sunbed and uses it every second day if she has an event to go to.

She has been using sunbeds for 10 years because she likes being tanned.


"I prefer being tanned than pasty."

Ms McRae thought problems only arose when people used sunbeds incorrectly.

She said if she followed the instructions she would be fine, and thought it was better to be using sunbeds than tanning in the sun.

However, UVR scientist at NIWA Dr Richard McKenzie, said the voluntary standards allow the UV radiation of sunbeds to be three times greater than summer sunlight and harmful skin damage could occur in less than five minutes.

Voluntary sunbed standards

- Turn away people aged under 18 and those with very fair skin.

- Display mandatory health warnings.


- Provide consent form outlining risks, which clients read and sign.

- Ensure staff are trained to assess skin type and determine exposure.


- Know the risks.

- Find out how long is safe for your skin tone.

- Use for a maximum of 30 minutes.

- Leave 48 hours between sessions.


- Wear protective goggles.