We Are Sunshine

Supermodel Elle Macpherson criticized for saying she tans safely

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Supermodel and businesswoman Elle Macpherson has been slammed by cancer authorities as irresponsible after she was quoted as saying “I tan safely.” The experts say all tans are dangerous.

The 44-year-old’s comment come as the Cancer Institute of NSW is running a $2.16 million summer advertisement campaign with the message that “tanning is skin cells in trauma, trying to protect themselves from cancer.”


Comment is being sought from Macpherson but the founder of the company whose products she was touting said the supermodel’s comments had been misinterpreted.

“What she means by that is she can go outside safely because she uses the zinc,” said Andrea Horwood, founder of Invisible Zinc.

Ms Horwood said she knows there is no such thing as a safe tan and that “the only safe tan is a fake tan”.

But Acting NSW Assistant Minister for Health, Kristina Keneally said Macpherson had got it wrong.

“Elle Macpherson might be a great model but she’s hardly a dermatologist or cancer expert. There is no such thing as a safe tan.

“When the skin changes color from being in the sun, it is damaged. Even the smallest melanoma, as small as a millimeter, can grow into skin cancer.”

Ms Keneally said that beach-goers should ignore Macpherson’s uninformed comments.

“She might look great but if people want to stay healthy I encourage them to take their advice from the Cancer Institute NSW,” she said. “It’s an uninformed comment. It demonstrates the challenge of getting out the message that a tan is not a healthy thing. I’m not trying to be wowser, it’s summertime, let’s go to the beach, have a good time but let’s do it safely.”

Asked if the comment was irresponsible, Ms Keneally replied: “Yes. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.”

Macpherson, touting an Australian sunscreen she will launch in the US, appears on the front page of today’s The Daily Telegraph stating: “I don’t have the skin of an English rose but I know my skin and I tan safely.”

A spokesman for Cancer Institute NSW repeated that all tans are unsafe.

“There is no safe way of tanning when exposure to UV is involved,” spokesman Adrian Grundy said. “That means any exposure to the sun, especially in the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during daylight saving, and through tanning devices like solariums.”

The “Dark Side of Tanning” campaign, featuring a ghoulish animation of a melanoma spreading through the body of a tanning woman, also states that one damaged skin cell can start a melanoma growing and a melanoma need only be 1mm deep to spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. The TV and print campaign will run until March.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, according to The Cancer Council NSW. Almost 1 in 2 Australians will develop some form of skin cancer, with more than 1,600 deaths from skin cancer every year.

— From Sydney Morning Herald and