We Are Sunshine

American Cancer Society’s Spokesperson Misses the Point

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

The landslide of new evidence in favor of the benefits of regular UV light exposure has many in the health policy field who have promoted sun abstinence making contradictory statements.

2008-05-13-backwards-tanningnews-copy.jpgDr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy medical director of the American Cancer Society, told Newsweek magazine in a May 10 article that promoting only the health benefits of UV rays “is like recommending smoking to reduce stress.”

Newsweek did not bother to dig into the ironic and inaccurate nature of Lichtenfeld’s statement.

First: Physician, heal thyself. “The American Cancer Society, for years, has promoted only the health risks associated with exposure to UV light and has neglected to mention the health benefits,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “Promoting only the health risks of UV is like recommending that people stop breathing to prevent getting airborne diseases. So Lichtenfeld’s assertion that the tanning community is being one-sided is pretty hypocritical.”

Second: Physician, check thy facts. “Lichtenfeld’s comments suggest that the tanning community is not acknowledging the risks of overexposure to UV light. That isn’t the case at all. Professional tanning facilities today educate people at many points in the tanning process that they need to avoid overexposure and burning. So isn’t it ironic that we are the ones teaching the balanced message, while ACS continues to support and promote the essence of outdated sun abstinence messaging that benefits their pharmaceutical donors?”

Third: Physician, shame on you. The implication once again that UV is like smoking is incredibly disturbing. “Smoking is unnatural — introducing elements into your body that your body was never intended to process,” Levy said. “Your body is designed to process UV light and is supposed to get UV light to be healthy. Tanning is a natural and intended body function. To compare UV to smoking not only denigrates UV exposure unfairly, it cheapens and compromises the importance of anti-tobacco efforts.”