For years now, it has been common knowledge that the sun will kill you. The AAD, the WHO, the SCF and a whole alphabet soup of organizations have told us that UV exposure causes melanoma. We all know that’s a fact, right? Well, there are some that don’t believe it and actually call it hype. The Indoor Tanning Association put out a full page ad this year disputing the “fact” that UV exposure causes melanoma. They say there is no proven link between moderate, nonburning UV exposure and melanoma. Turns out, the link between tanning and melanoma may not be as strong as we have been led to believe.
Pubmed is a website provided by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health. When you find information there, it doesn’t mean that it is fact, but it has, at least been reviewed by other scientists and has some validity. It is not like getting your information from a website trying to sell you vitamin supplements. It provides information by scientists and medical professionals, for scientists and medical professionals. When looking for answers to the question of whether the UV/Melanoma association is hype or not, this seems like a good place to gather information. Let’s take a look:
A study done at Boston University Medical Center (Exposure to sunlamps, tanning beds, and melanoma risk, published on pubmed, Feb, 14, 2008) recently failed to prove the link between tanning beds and melanoma. They looked at 423 cases of melanoma and 678 controls in the state of New Hampshire. They did a telephone interview and asked questions about the subjects use of sunlamps and tanning beds. Results? There seemed to be a modest increase in risk of melanoma using sunlamps (sunlamps would be more subject to overexposure than tanning beds in a professional salon), but no association was found with tanning bed use. The study does point out that, as they put it, “sufficient lag time may not have elapsed to assess a potential effect.” Okay, that didn’t really prove anything. let’s keep looking.
On February 22, 2008, there was another abstract published on pubmed regarding a study of 7,200 French people. This study looked at the habits and attitudes of people who use tanning beds. It compared 6,124 people that did not tan indoors with 1,076 people that did use indoor tanning. The study concluded that people who used indoor tanning were also more likely to be smokers and to lay outside baking in the sun. I don’t think there is any dispute that smoking causes cancer. I also haven’t seen anyone that is disagreeing with the fact you can get too much exposure. The key seems to be moderation. “Promoting Responsible sun care and Sunburn Prevention” is the motto written on the website for the Indoor Tanning Association(www.theita.com) in big bold letters and is the first thing you see if you visit the site.
In fairness, there are other population based studies published on pubmed that have looked at people who tan and have drawn the conclusion there is a link between tanning and melanoma. But, I have yet to find one that distinguishes between regular, moderate tanning and burning. In fact, according to another recently published abstract (Solar UV exposure and mortality from skin tumors, Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico Cancer Center, Albuquerque, NM), “evidence in ecologic studies and the few analytic studies show that high levels of intermittent UV exposure prior to diagnosis are somehow associated with improved survival from melanoma.” What? UV exposure causes “improved” survival from melanoma?
So, what are we to believe? We have been told for over 30 years to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. We are more cautious than ever when it comes to sun exposure, yet we are told skin cancer rates are climbing. Could it be that we are doing it wrong? Could the Indoor Tanning Association be right? Is it all hype? At least, they aren’t as crazy as many people are trying to make them out to be. Perhaps, common sense is making a comeback.
(UVTalk is a privately owned discussion forum for people who are interested in learning about the positive effects of regular, moderate UV exposure.)