Tanning beds and booths emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation within the UVA and UVB spectrum. Use of tanning equipment is primarily for cosmetic reasons. Although EU regulations limit the maximum effective irradiance of commercial tanning equipment to 0.3 W/m2, a wide variation in strength is likely.
There are no controlled studies that assess the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes following sun bed/tanning booth exposure in pregnancy and women wishing to partake in such exposures should be aware of the lack of evidence. There are theoretical concerns that a rise in core body temperature during use of sunbeds/tanning booths could increase the risk of neural tube defects in the offspring and that UV exposure could cause folate deficiency, leading to an increased risk of neural tube defects. Additionally, there is a clear increased risk of skin cancer in users of sun beds/tanning booths, and on this basis, exposure should be avoided.
Narrowband UVB phototherapy is occasionally used in a clinical setting to treat certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Therapeutic use in this context is not thought to pose a risk to the fetus, and the European Task Force on Atopic Dermatitis recommend, where feasible, that narrowband UVB and UVA1 can be used liberally in pregnant women. However, the use of psoralens is not recommended due to the theoretical risk of mutagenesis.
Exposure to sun beds, tanning booths, or UV phototherapy at any stage in pregnancy would not usually be regarded as medical grounds for termination of pregnancy or any additional fetal monitoring. However, other risk factors, which independently increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcome, may be present in individual cases. Clinicians are reminded of the importance of consideration of such factors when performing case specific-risk assessments.
This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.
If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.
If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.