We Are Sunshine

IARC Risk Difference: 1 in 1000

Monday, March 8th, 2010

2010-03-07 IARC Risk Difference 1 in 1000 copyA Wilmington News-Journal report published last week best-expressed the weakness of the data used by a World Health Organization working group last summer in a controversial report used to suggest that tanning is on par with cigarettes as a risk. The data suggest that just isn’t the case.

A report published last summer by the World Health Organization summarized that ‘there was no consistent evidence for a dose-response relationship between indoor tanning exposure and risk of melanoma.’ The report’s strongest study — which followed more than 100,000 women over eight years — found that less than three-tenths of 1 percent who tanned frequently developed melanoma while less than two-tenths of 1 percent who didn’t tan developed melanoma. Almost all the other studies in the report did not establish a strong link between the two,” Delaware’s largest newspaper reported.

In other words, the difference in risk between tanners and non-tanners in the report’s strongest study was a 1 in 1,000 difference in overall risk.

Tanning opponents have attempted to massage the data into suggesting that tanners who start tanning early have a 75 percent higher risk of contracting melnoma — another statistic that independent health analysts say is bogus.

“The overall risk of contracting melanoma — whether using tanning beds or not — remains well under 1 percent. For that reason, using the 75 percent statistic is misleading,” Dr. Lisa M. Schwartz told the News-Journal. Schwartz is the co-author of a book educating people on how to properly analyze health statistics called Know Your Chances. “Melanoma is pretty rare and almost all the time, the way to make it look scarier is to present the relative change, the 75 percent increase, rather than to point out that it is still really rare.”

To read the News Journal story click here.