A Medical News today report on Tuesday compared UV exposure to tobacco as harmful agents as rationale for further regulation of the indoor tanning market — repeating a dermatology industry talking point that ignores that UV exposure is necessary for all life on the planet.
“Just like tobacco smoke, UV radiation from indoor tanning has been classified as carcinogenic and dangerous to humans by The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer,” Medical News Today reporter Grace Rattue wrote. “In addition, researchers have found that individuals are 75% more likely to develop melanoma if they had been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning.”
The trouble is, both of those points aren’t accurate. Smoking introduces dozens of man-made chemical carcinogens into the body, and tobacco’s connection with cancer and heart disease is overwhelming. One in three cancer deaths are tobacco related. Additionally, the “75 percent” stat has been discredited as not pertaining to commercial indoor tanning, but to all sunbed applications — which includes dermatology’s usage of sunbeds.
“As long as dermatology organizations continue to lobby to preserve and protect dermatology’s own use of UV sunbeds to treat cosmetic skin conditions, their lobbying efforts against sunbed usage in salon businesses will ultimately continue to be more political than scientific,” Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy said. “UV exposure from the sun or a sunbed is not in any practical way comparable to tobacco, nor should public health campaigns approach sun safety with this mantra. Smoking introduces dozens of man-made chemical carcinogens into the body, countering the body’s natural functions. In contrast, humans, like everything on the planet, need UV light to survive.”
Levy continued, “The position that any UV exposure is harmful is becoming more and more antiquated and dangerous. And yet it is core to how dermatology has lobbied against commercial sunbeds. Combined with misrepresentations about the mixed epidemiology on the potential risks of UV from sunbeds and dismissal of obvious confounding information, dermatology organizations are not on solid ground on this topic. Their lobbying “successes” have been politically accomplished moreso than scientifically valid.
“If the public is truly to be served, dermatology needs to work with the professional sunbed community to achieve a balanced message. Dermatology’s current absolute stance on UV exposure is scientifically outdated.”