A Bloomberg News story about indoor tanning published Sunday included all the talking points from the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s anti-UV lobbying docket, but interviewed no sources from within the tanning community.
“I was a consumer journalist in the 1980s and 1990s, and when we wrote stories critical of a company or a market, you had to actually interview someone in that company or market,” Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy said. “Inexplicably, Bloomberg didn’t do that at all. I’d have gotten fired for turning in such a story when I was a reporter. They wrote a story about indoor tanning without actually talking to anyone in indoor tanning.”
And most of the story — authored by a journalist from Bloomberg’s Melbourne, Australia, bureau, but which was mostly about the U.S. Tanning market — mis-quoted statistics and took AADA anti-UV lobbing points at their word. Specifically:
The story headlined “Teens Dying from Sunbed Tanning Curb $5 Billion Tanning Industry” cited two disputed survey-studies about sunbeds — studies that actually don’t specifically pertain to indoor tanning salons. Bloomberg and the sources it contacted failed to disclose that three kinds of sunbeds make up the data sets in the studies and that the data identify different risks for each kind of unit:
One study, published in the British Medical Journal this fall, was a meta-analysis of previously published survey question data collected in six different countries between 1977 and 2010. Professional tanning salons did not exist in North America in 1977, so much of the data in the BMJ report involved unmonitored home tanning equipment or even medical use of sunbeds to treat disease. In fact, the BMJ report was an “ever-use” meta-analysis of surveys that asked people, “Have you ever used an indoor tanning device?” It did not control for how or where the devices were used. So the report’s conclusion — that ever-use of a sunbed led to a 29 percent increased risk of basal cell carcinoma and a 67 percent increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma — is a relatively weak statistical correlation without any controls or a mechanism to identify causation, and does not apply to sunbeds in tanning salons.
The inclusion of medical sunbeds in the data set taints the data. Medical use of sunbeds increases risk of skin cancer by up to 5,000 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health — 75 to 125 times greater than what the BMJ report alleges for indoor tanning sunbeds. (Click here for that report)
It should be noted that dermatologists use sunbeds to treat cosmetic skin conditions such as psoriasis, charging up to $150 per sunbed session, and that many dermatologists who don’t have their own sunbeds refer clients to tanning salons for informal treatment of psoriasis while tanning. (Click here for that report)
“So phototherapy in a dermatologists office with a drug and a nearly identical sunbed is called ‘safe’ by the dermatology community, but this study — which shows 75-125 times less risk from all sunbeds is trying to say that tanning salons are risky from data that isn’t even from professional tanning salons,” Levy said. “It is time to have a more-intelligent discussion about UV exposure. The Bloomberg story failed to find this because it pretty much just quoted those who supplied Bloomberg with a lobbying press release.”
Bloomberg also failed to account for the different types of sunbeds in a 2009 World Health Organization report that falsely alleged indoor tanning increased melanoma risk 75 percent for those who tanned before age 30, when in fact that data set implicated medical phototherapy (96 percent) and home sunbed usage (40 percent) as the sources of the increased risk.
The Bloomberg story also falsely stated that melanoma is increasing in young women — a position disputed by the U.S. government’s own melanoma data — despite the fact that melanoma is increasing rapidly among men over 50 and not women under 50.
SmartTan.com news articles regularly report medical and scientific information to keep you abreast of current events related to UV light. This information is not intended to be used by any party to make unwarranted health claims to promote sunbed usage. Indoor tanning businesses are obligated to communicate a fair and balanced message to all clients about your products and services including the potential risks associated with indoor tanning. Contact your Smart Tan representative to find out more about what you can and can’t say in your tanning salon business.
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