We Are Sunshine

New Australian study shows how incredulous the anti-tan lobby can be

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Australian researchers who asserted that indoor tanning may be killing 43 Australians a year in a study published Monday may be guilty of academic fraud, allowing questionable methods to be promoted as fact and apparently ignoring confounding information in how their work was promoted.

The research group, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, suggested that tanning facility usage causes an estimated 281 new melanoma cases, 43 melanoma-related deaths and 2,572 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma.

2008-10-07-ridiculous-tanningnews-copy.jpgWhat’s more, the authors of the paper, published yesterday in the Medical Journal of Australia, made their motives for their work quite clear: calling for tougher national regulation of the solarium industry in news stories surrounding their paper.

How did the study reach its conclusions? The Melbourne-based newspaper “The Age” reported Monday that “(Authors) estimated the impact of Australian solariums by calculating the proportion of ultraviolet radiation exposure from solarium tanning, compared with exposure to the sun. It found that 3.6% of the total ultraviolet exposure of Victorians came from solarium use.”

Smart Tan believes the methods used to reach these conclusions are totally baseless and may be unethical.

“If they are claiming that 3.6 percent of the melanoma problem is caused by indoor tanning because people get 3.6 percent of their UV from indoor tanning equipment, then it’s hard to see how anyone could consider these findings credible,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “If that’s what they’re saying, then the whole thing is based on a farce.”

No evidence has suggested that cumulative exposure to UV light is directly related to melanoma incidence and mortality. “There’s no data to support that. Even the dermatology industry has admitted this year that they do not have direct evidence to link indoor tanning to melanoma. What’s more, so much confounding evidence exists that it is conspicuous in how it is being ignored. One of the definitions of academic fraud is ignoring confounding information.”

Melanoma is more common in people who work indoors than in those who work outdoors and occurs most often on skin that is not regularly exposed to UV light. “These two points alone show that this new study may be unprovable at best and fraudulent at worst,” Levy said.

But according to The Age, Australian group “SunSmart’s Sue Heward said it was concrete evidence of a link between solariums and melanoma.”

“That’s a totally baseless claim,” Levy said. “They are going way beyond the data here and making a huge leap.”

Smart Tan believes that public health efforts should focus on sunburn prevention — not on sun abstinence.

Click here to read the report.