Highly circulated news magazine U.S. News & World Report on Thursday reported that dermatologists are accusing the indoor tanning industry of taking unfair advantage of now overwhelming research that the benefits of UV-induced vitamin D will save lives.
“Many dermatologists suggest that the tanning industry, like the tobacco industry before it, is manipulating and distorting scientific evidence to protect a dangerous product,” the magazine writes in its story, “The Tanning Industry Wants You.”
That statement, we believe, is totally backwards. It’s the dermatology industry lobbying groups who have been taking advantage of the message.
“If anyone can be compared to the tobacco industry, it is those who have marketed sun abstinence as an ill-advised public health policy,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “Think about it: The tobacco industry was implicated because it allegedly knew that its product was harmful and allegedly covered up that information. Likewise, those who have marketed sun abstinence have knowledge that their message likely has contributed to vitamin D deficiency, and they do not actually have data that regular, non-burning UV exposure is a risk factor for anything. Instead, they have represented the risks that appear to be related to sunburn as being risks related to any exposure. Further, they have told us to use sunscreen — a product designed to be used to prevent sunburn — as a daily-use product even on days when sunburn would never be possible. To me, that’s a Big Tobacco-like deception.”
In contrast, the professional indoor tanning community properly acknowledges that overexposure and burning need to be avoided — we are the ones teaching a balanced message. And ironically, we are better at teaching sunburn prevention than those who teach sun abstinence.
US News & World Report has discussed the health benefits associated with sunlight this week. But, like in many other reports, perpetuated the unsubstantiated spin of the dermatology community that people only need a few minutes of sun a day to make the vitamin D they need. “In fact, there is no way to make a blanket vitamin D recommendation,” Levy said, “because everyone’s ability to make vitamin D from sunlight differs based on their skin type, age and of course the kind of sunlight they are exposed to. We need to do a better job explaining this to the press.”