Sunlamp Use Linked to Uveal Melanoma Risk

Woman in a stand-up tanning booth wearing neon orange protective eye wear.
Researchers found the association after reviewing 1753 patients from 5 studies.

Sunlamp use is a modifiable risk factor for uveal melanoma, according to findings published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis to characterize the association between the use of the tanning devices and the development of ocular cancer. The study involved reviewing the MEDLINE, EMBASE, MD Consult, and Web of Science databases for literature published between 1966 and 2019.

The analysis considered 5 studies for a total of 1753 patients and 3399 control participants. The study demonstrated a positive association between sunlamp use and uveal melanoma (odds ratio=2.15; 95%CI 1.27 to 3.64).

The devices have already been labeled “carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to their association with a 59% increase in the risk of cutaneous malignancies for individuals first exposed to them before age 35. The WHO also reports associations with additional ocular pathologies, such as photokeratitis, photoconjunctivitis, pterygium, and squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva.

The researchers explain that, while the present study is the largest to date evaluating the association between sunlamp use and uveal melanoma, it has several limitations, including sample size and relatively small study numbers due to the rare nature of uveal melanoma. Additionally, the study notes, there may have been some confounding due to the absence of data on eye protection.

“Furthermore, 4 our of 5 studies included in this meta-analysis did not report risk ratios of sunlamp users who used eye protection versus those who did not, nor did they provide raw data from which this could be calculated,” the researchers say. “Therefore, this factor could not be accounted for during data analysis.” 

Additionally, the study notes that prior research has not demonstrated DNA signature mutations related to UVB exposure, which is in contrast to the present findings, and that this could be explained by the prevalence of UVA emission with suntan beds and the better ability of UVA to penetrate the eye. Therefore, the investigators suggest that additional research be performed to clarify the association.


Weis E, Aghazadeh H, Roelofs K, Agi J. Sunlamp use is a risk factor for uveal melanoma: a meta-analysis. Can J Ophthalmol. Published online April 8, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.jcjo.2021.02.041.