We Are Sunshine

Anti-Sun Groups are Pitching Sunscreen Use

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

In a week where the dermatology community is once again mis-directing melanoma’s public message away from men over age 50 — the group that is actually seeing a measurable increase in melanoma — and aiming it instead at women under age 50, who are not seeing an increase in melanoma mortality in North America, the following sentence actually appeared in a press release:

2008-05-08-spinning-the-numbers-copy.jpg“Often viewed as an adult disease, melanoma affects seven out of every million children in the U.S., according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute. While still uncommon, some hospitals report that the number of cases is growing.”

The press release, from the Aflac Cancer Center, stated “Children should always apply sunscreen with SPF 15 before spending time in the sun. Parents should also learn the warning signs of melanoma.”

Seven out of every million is less than one out of every 100,000. “Of course they are going to say the number of cases is increasing, because that number is so small that it is statistically insignificant – any honest statistician will tell you that,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “This is so obviously an attempt to keep people over-using sunscreen. There is no research to show that daily sunscreen use prevents melanoma. None. Since we know that daily sunscreen usage blocks virtually all vitamin D production, and that most Americans and 97 percent of Canadians suffer from vitamin D deficiency, it’s obvious that what we should be teaching children is sunburn prevention — not sun abstinence.”

On Tuesday public health officials from the Australian state of Tasmania called for children to throw off their hats in the fall, winter and spring, recognizing that overzealous sunscreen and sunblocking initiatives are causing vitamin D deficiency. (See the story in the “More Tanning News” archive.

Melanoma mortality is increasing dramatically in men over age 50, but public health campaigns about melanoma continue to be directed at young women. “This is the group that buys cosmetics laced with sunscreen, and that is why the messaging is directed at them. It’s so obvious,” Levy said.