JACKSON, Mich. (Feb. 1) — The dermatology industry continues to use UV sunbeds to treat cosmetic skin diseases in their offices — often for up to 20 times the price of equivalent indoor tanning sessions — calling their use of sunbeds “safe” while simultaneously referring to typically lower UV dosages delivered by sunbeds in tanning facilities as dangerous.
It’s a contradiction that is now coming to the forefront, as dermatology lobbying groups are stepping up efforts to drive people away from sunbeds while at the same time introducing legislation to protect their use of nearly identical UV phototherapy equipment for the treatment of psoriasis and other cosmetic diseases.
The California Dermatology Society – testifying to state lawmakers in 2011 that sunbeds should be banned for those under age 18 — told lawmakers that no research implicated their use of phototherapy sessions as risky, but that indoor tanning sunbed salon sessions were. In fact, the World Health Organization has issued a report labeling dermatology phototherapy sessions — routinely administered in combination with the photo-carcinogenic drug Methoxalen — to be a Class 1 Carcinogen. Click here for that report.
California lawmakers last summer passed an under-18 ban on sun tanning salon visits based in part on CDS’s testimony. Legislators even added an amendment to their bill explicitly exempting phototherapy in dermatology offices from the rules after CDS testified that phototherapy was not a risk factor for melanoma even though dermatology’s use of sunbeds was already exempted in the bill.
In addition to WHO calling phototherapy with Methoxalen a Class 1 carcinogen, a 1997 U.S. Study showed that dermatology phototherapy increased melanoma risk by more than 300 percent — 4 to 5 times the relative risk that derms alleged was due to commercial sunbeds. Click here to see that study.
In fact, research dating back to 1985 first implicated the use of psoralen-based medication as carcinogenic when combined with UV light. Click here for more information. That’s why indoor tanning salons do not allow tanners who are being treated with psoralen-based medications to tan – a point that has been paramount in Smart Tan operator education since 1991.
“This is clear: Data exists to question dermatology’s use of sunbeds at high dosages in combination with photo-carcinogenic drugs to treat cosmetic skin conditions,” Smart Tan’s Joseph Levy said. “It makes no sense for derm groups to attack commercial tanning salons while simultaneously defending their use of equipment as ‘safe’ when in fact their own data suggests it may be many times riskier.”
CDS’s immediate past president also called indoor tanning sunbeds “an inefficient” source of vitamin D production, saying that because sunbeds are mostly UVA they do not make vitamin D well. Other North American dermatology groups have made the same statement – which isn’t accurate. In fact, sunbeds are an incredibly efficient source of vitamin D production, just like natural sunlight, which is also mostly UVA, but which contains the right amount of UVB to trigger vitamin D production. Clinical research has established that regular sunbed users have 90 percent higher vitamin D levels as compared to non-tanners.
“Dermatology lobbying groups are not telling the whole truth about sunlight — they are not spreading a balanced message,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “A few consumer journalists have figured that out, but it is a story that is ready to be told en masse.”
In 2010, Huffington Post journalist Harmon Leon went undercover into dermatology offices and found that many clinical dermatologists embraced sunbed phototherapy while at the same time over-trumping anti-sun messages to sell expensive private-label sunscreen products. Click here for that story.
“There’s a strange health tug-of-war going on,” Leon wrote. “Doctors are now telling us to get back into the sun for better health since a large majority of Americans are being deprived of natural vitamin D and other benefits associated with sunshine. Meanwhile, the cosmetic dermatology industry seems to be turning up the heat on their ‘stay out of the sun, wear sunscreen 24/7’ message. Who’s a person to believe?’