Letter to the Editor

Your View 10/22: Half-truths can be great lies

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The report "Tanning salons linked to cancer risk" that was in the media last week, including this newspaper, was born of incorrect, false and purposely misleading information submitted to the Associated Press from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Had anyone from the Associated Press or any other news organization read the original study, they would have noticed the research that was conducted provided no solid evidence that tanning beds are related to melanoma risk, yet the news media is running it like it was a conclusive find against indoor tanning. It isn't! Apparently checking sources in today's news world is unnecessary.

The original JNC I article is full of scientifically unsupported half-truths. For example, the article stated, "In addition, we did not adjust for the multiple comparisons made in the study. Instead we chose to evaluate the individual association on their own merits...." What that statement means is that the authors knew it was impossible to separate the risk of overexposure to sunlight from the risk of tanning lamp use.

Keep in mind that this was conducted in Norway and Sweden where the majority of the population are fair-skinned, and where sun exposure is intermittent, both of which increases the likelihood of sunburns.

Here is another statement from this study. "Among the limitation of our study were ... the limited detail about the exposure measurements...." to refer to a total absence of any data regarding the UVR dose as being "limited" is ridiculous. What the authors should have said is that they had (1) absolutely no data regarding UVR dose from the tanning lamps used; (2) absolutely no data regarding the UVR dose from the sunlight exposure experienced by the participants in the study; and (3) that there were absolutely no verification that the respondents had actually used tanning lamps as stated.

Another statement "In Sweden, the survey was supported by ... and Schering-Plough." Schering-Plough is one of the leading purveyors of sunscreen products in the world. The multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry would stand to profit greatly if they could scare everyone into using their product. Another not so small detail that the Associated Press failed to notice is that the words "tanning salon" or "tanning parlor" are found nowhere in the original article, yet most headlines used the words "tanning salon." The authors used the word "solarium," which was defined as sun bed or sunlamps that emit artificial UV light. These could be table top units which are known to produce sunburn, or home tanning beds which cannot be regulated, however there is no data in the study stating what type of solarium was used, and no credible evidence proving that exposure to tanning beds at a professional tanning salon induces melanoma.

Why is it that the media will run with an article that is full of more holes than swiss cheese and ignore any studies or articles that discuss the possible dangers of sunscreens or the health benefits of UV light? At the recent NIH conference held on Oct. 8 and 9 entitled, "Vitamin D and Health in the 21st Century - Bone and Beyond" (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/od/prip/index.htm) these facts were revealed:

1. Vitamin D cannot be generated sufficiently without exposure to ultraviolet rays, either natural or artificial;

2. Vitamin D is the key required to combat rickets, cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis;

3. Over 80 percent of Americans are today Vitamin D deficient;

4. Sunscreen blocks UV-B which then inhibits Vitamin D production;

5. 1.3 million internal (breast, colon, stomach) cancer cases per year are attributed to Vitamin D deficiency;

6. Over 200,000 cases of diabetes and MS are attributed to Vitamin D deficiency;

7. Of the 50,000 cases of melanoma each year, better than 95 percent are cured.

These findings would suggest that the health risks of underexposure to UVR are much greater than the risks of overexposure.

The tanning industry does not discount the deaths caused by overexposure to sunlight. In fact, it is the tanning industry and professionally run tanning salons that is the only representation of moderate exposure for the end result of making sunlight part of a healthy lifestyle. Professional tanning salons promote controlled usages in the effort to prevent burns. It is the burns, according to our philosophy, that lead to damage.

I am not a scientist, doctor or reporter, however in today's information age, researching facts is as easy as pointing and clicking. The next time an AP article such as this one comes along, I would hope that the news media does some pointing and clicking of their own.

There are many other studies and articles refuting the findings of this study. If anyone is interested, you are welcome to stop by The Sun Club to read some of them.

Melanie Ramey The Sun Club, Sikeston