We Are Sunshine

Portland story about indoor tanning gets every single point wrong.

Friday, January 16th, 2009

While it isn’t unusual to see stories this time of year quoting misinformation to slam indoor tanning, it is unusual to see a news story actually get every single point wrong in one story. But that’s just what The Portland Oregonian did Wednesday.

2009-01-15-wrong-again-tanningnews-copy.jpgA health column slamming indoor tanning in the Oregonian entitled “Benefits of Tanning: True or False” attempted to make five points to bolster its case. Ironically, each of the five points it made were factually inaccurate.

“The writer, Joe Rojas-Burke, may have thought he was putting together a quick piece on indoor tanning, and he may have thought he was citing information to support his points, but instead fell for all of the rhetoric the anti-sun “Sun Scare” lobbying has been shoveling in its unscientific attempts to fend off the avalanche of pro-sun, vitamin D related news and research,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “While we see a lot of misinformation in these articles, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a story where every single point was wrong.

The Oregonian mis-reported that:

  1. “Indoor tanning does not treat seasonal affective disorder.” In fact, it is a very effective treatment for millions of Americans — even if salons cannot advertise this therapeutic side effect to their service. “Treatment requires visible light — not UV radiation from tanning booths,” the Oregonian said. In fact, the National Institutes of Health researcher who coined the term Seasonal Affective Disorder, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, has publicly discussed that indoor tanning is an effective SAD treatment, and that because UV triggers endorphin production naturally, any sun exposure helps SAD victims. Older thinking was that only visible light to the eyes helped, but has since been rebuked.
  2. “Tanning lamps are carcinogenic.” This statement is totally useless — it’s like saying that water causes drowning, and therefore humans should avoid water — a total misrepresentation of the relationship. In fact, no data has ever isolated that tanning in a non-burning fashion as a causative mechanism for any cancer.
  3. Indoor tanning does not protect your skin before a sun-drenched vacation. “There’s no evidence it can prevent damage from subsequent sun exposure, according to a review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer,” the paper reported. Tell that to the millions of North Americans whose indoor tans, in combination with the correct usage of sunscreen on vacations, actually multiplies the efficacy of the sunscreen in preventing sunburn. The error citing IARC: They are attempting to say that “damage” is defined by any UV exposure at all rather than as sunburn — a point that does not hold up under scrutiny. “If Big Dermatology does not reverse it’s position that any UV exposure is damage they are at risk for propagating academic fraud,” Levy said. “The data today show clearly that humans are intended to receive regular UV exposure.”
  4. The relaxing effects of tanning can be habit-forming. In fact, calling tanning “addictive” is a scare-tactic not supported by data. Humans are designed to be attracted to UV light — which is a lot different than “addiction.”
  5. Indoor tanning is not a safe way to boost vitamin D. “Since the UV radiation damages skin and promotes cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology says its better to get extra vitamin D from foods and supplements,” the Oregonian reported. In fact, there is no data whatsoever that humans can attain natural vitamin D levels in any way other than receiving regular UV exposure — AAD’s recommendations are without data to support and rely on suggesting that humans get their vitamin D from un-natural sources.

Smart Tan sent a response to The Oregonian. To read the story, click here.