Dr. Jeffrey Ellis appeared tonight on LI Talks, News 12 with Lea Tyrrell to discuss and debate safety of indoor tanning with Joseph Levy, the executive director of International Smart Tan Network – a lobby for the indoor tanning association. The discussion was prompted by the American Academy of Pediatrics recent position statement to ban minors from tanning.
The International Smart Tan Network would like you to believe that developing a tan is an intelligent way to minimize risk of sunburn. It is NOT. The Indoor Tanning Association has been cited by the FTC for making false claims related to the safety of tanning. A tan gives you an SPF of 3 while causing DNA damage. Tanning intensity and time regulation are poorly enforced by facility staff with 95% of tanners exceeding time limits and 83% of tanning booths producing more UVB than standards allow.
Here are the facts:
- The World Health Organization categorizes tanning beds as a carcinogen
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer categorizes tanning beds as a carcinogen to humans
- The American Medical Association, American Academy of Dermatology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize the dangers associated with tanning beds, and have position statements to limit access to younger children
- The risk of melanoma is increased by 75% when exposure to tanning beds occurs before the age of 30 (Lancet Oncology 2009)
- In the population based Skin Health Study, researchers found that people who used tanning beds often were 2.5-3x more likely to develop melanoma thana person who never tanned indoors
- The Australian Melanoma Family Study identified 76% of the melanoma in patients between the ages of 18-39 were attributed to tanning bed use
The tanning industry is a big one, with a powerful lobby. In 2007, domestic sales were in excess of $5 billion. They use marketing tactics simlar to the tobacco industry where they try to mitigate health concerns, appeal to a sense of social acceptance, emphasize the “relaxing” component of going tanning, and target specific population segments who are most vulnerable (ie: prom specials).
At this time, 32 states have legislation to regulate tanning, but more is needed on a federal level. In Brazil, tanning beds sale and use is banned. In France, Germany, Austria & the UK it is banned for individuals under 18 years old. In New York, current legislation does not allow anyone under 14 years of age to use tanning beds, but adolescents age 14-17 can use one if they have parental consent. Tanning beds have a wide variability of radiation output, operator knowledge, and degree to which operators comply with state and federal guidelines. Some studies suggest that 95% of patrons going to tanning salons were not following the exposure guidelines.
Regarding Vitamin D… did you know that Vitamin D is generated from UVB light, and most tanning beds use predominantly UVA light (because UVB increases the risk of a burn). UVA does not help to generate Vitamin D, but does increase the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, wrinkles, etc. Here is more information from the American Academy of Dermatology on Vitamin D.