We Are Sunshine

Melanoma Study Repeats Key Mistake

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Authors of a new European study on melanoma incidence in sunbed users failed to disclose that medical sunbed phototherapy procedures and home-sunbed usage are present in the studies they included in their meta-analysis — data contamination that skews the results to falsely implicate salon sunbeds.

Medical phototherapy — the use of sunbeds in a doctor’s office to treat cosmetic skin conditions like psoriasis in combination with light-sensitizing medications — increases skin cancer risk 50-fold, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which has declared medical phototherapy a Class I Carcinogen. Despite this being 66-times greater than the risk-factor they falsely attached to tanning sunbeds in 2011-12 lobbying efforts, the dermatology industry in the United States has lobbied to protect cosmetic sunbed phototherapy access in their offices to patients of all ages.

A 2006 World Health Organization-International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) review of sunbed-melanoma studies in those who started use before age 35 also failed to disclose that it included medical phototherapy in its data. When that study was dissected, commercial sunbed salons did not statistically increase the risk for melanoma, while phototherapy in a doctor’s office doubled the risk.

“It’s not responsible to publish a study and for those speaking and writing about the study to allege that it condemns tanning salons when in fact the data condemn the medical use of sunbeds and don’t differentiate the usage of unsupervised home usage from commercial salons,” Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy said. “There are three categories of sunbeds: Medical phototherapy devices, home sunbed units and commercial sunbeds. All of them emit UV light, but all of them are used differently. When researchers publish papers that include all three of these units but draw conclusions that just target commercial tanning salons, you have to question their agenda. It’s beyond reckless.”

The new European report, published July 24 in the British Medical Journal, was conducted by the International Prevention Research Institute, a group that lists several pharmaceutical industry groups who mass-market sunscreen products as a daily-use item instead of as products to be used correctly to prevent sunburn only when sunburn is possible as “partners.”

The study, which updates the 2006 IARC report by adding more studies into the same database, does not appear to apply to North American tanning market. According to the new European report, “It seems that sunbed users are more likely to have fair skin, have red or blond hair, have more freckles and be phototype I/II than III/IV than non-users,” the authors wrote in their paper.

Professional salons in North America do not tan subjects with Skin Type I, and peer-reviewed data implicates those with red hair as having an elevated melanoma risk independent of sunlight. “If the authors contend that Skin Type I subjects are more likely to use sunbeds in their studies, then there is absolutely no way you can apply this data to commercial salons in North America,” Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy said.