N° 178
1 June 2007 

From the Director
To: All staff and their families
(from the IARC intranet)


Dear Colleagues,

With the arrival of summertime in the northern hemisphere, health authorities should remind the general public of the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight, irrespective of the impression of well-being that sunbathing may give.

IARC has been at the forefront of determining the deleterious effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on cancer, whether from solar radiation or from artificial sources. These risks are universally recognized today, on the basis of epidemiologic and experimental evidence.

Exposure to UV radiation is indeed known to cause severe skin and eye conditions, in the medium and long term, particularly in children and other sensitive populations.
While it is important to recognize that it is impossible to avoid all exposure to sunlight, risks can be reduced by observing several simple guidelines:

- Avoid summer sun exposure between noon and 4:00 PM;

- Stay in the shade to the greatest extent possible;

- Wear a T-shirt, a wide hat and sunglasses while outdoors;

- Apply sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum) often and copiously while in the sun;

- Do not use sunscreen for tan acquisition or for staying longer in the sun;

- Take particular care to protect children and adolescents, particularly ensuring that they wear a shirt and a hat when in the summer sun.

I take this opportunity to remind you that using artificial UV-emitting tanning equipment also involves health risks. Since 2003, the World Health Organization has been advising strongly against artificial UV exposure for cosmetic purposes. More recently, an IARC Working Group concluded that artificial tanning has no positive effect for health: using artificial UV light provides little or no protection against solar radiation-induced damage. That study also showed a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma, a highly aggressive form of skin cancer among people who began using artificial UV sources before the age of 30.

Every year about this time, old misconceptions resurface that tanning in the sun can be prepared for ahead of time without health effects by using commercial solar beds to “get the skin ready” or “lay down a base tan” for outdoor sunbathing. These statements are simply without foundation.

Enjoy the sun, but take care to protect yourself and your family. Have a great summer!

Dr Peter Boyle

World Health Organization
International Agency for Research on Cancer

Organisation mondiale de la Santé
Centre international de Recherche sur le Cancer

150, cours Albert-Thomas 69372 Lyon Cedex 08 (France)
Telephone: 33 472 738 485     Facsimile: 33 472 738 311