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We Are Sunshine

Bogus Study Spins Tanning Data

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association is getting press today — the study  pools survey data collected over the past 22 years and attempts to say that indoor tanning usage is increasing and that indoor tanning is related to 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the US.

The paper claims:

  • 35% of adults have “ever used” indoor tanning, with 14% within the past year.
  • 55% of university students have ever used indoor tanning, with 43% within the past year.
  • 19% of adolescents have “ever used” indoor tanning, with 18 percent in the last year.

“The numbers don’t match reality at all,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “This paper is asking us to believe that there are 38.1 million Americans who visited a tanning salon last year. For that to be true, that would mean that indoor tanning popularity has increased 52 percent in the past decade while at the same time the number of tanning facilities has declined 30 percent from 20,000 to around 14,000. That’s mathematically impossible.”

The paper attempts to extrapolate that people who answered one question on self-administered surveys saying they had “ever used” one tanning session — less UV than one would receive in 90 minutes outdoors, and without asking about any other questions about sun behavior or genetic factors — can be used to project how many people will get skin cancer. That simply is not credible.

“The authors are asking for policy to be enacted based on this information,” Levy said. “They are acting as advocates, not scientists. They have conspicuously ignored all of the possible confounding factors to their conclusions. How can any credible statistician take this seriously?”

Smart Tan and the American Suntanning Association have called for higher-level discussion of the sun-care issue. Smart Tan is working with ASA to encourage policy makers to engage constructively in any sun care policy discussion and to focus on sunburn prevention models for people of all ages.

Smart Tan sent members a communication this morning about the study. We will continue to report on this study on and in member communications.