We Are Sunshine

Quote of the Week:
UV’s Disputed Melanoma Link

Friday, July 20th, 2012

“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.” — from the article, “Tanning Beds: What Do The Numbers Really Mean” by Dr. Ivan Oransky, editor of Reuters Health. Oransky pointed out that the data dermatologists say is evidence that tanning increases melanoma risk doesn’t really show much of an increase — one more case per thousand subjects.

That’s not all. What Oransky didn’t know is that if you take sunbed users who use home tanning equipment or who have skin type I — who sometimes tan in home units or in other parts of the world — out of the data set there isn’t any difference in risk.

Oransky’s article attempts to teach health reporters that there’s a big difference between relative risk and absolute risk when discussing data, and that medical lobbyists sometimes use relative risk to make something seem riskier than it really is. In this case, dermatology lobbyists have attempted to allege that tanning at an early age increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.

“If reporters leave things at ‘a 75 percent increase,’ you’re not giving your readers the most important information they need to judge for themselves,” he explained. “So when you read a study that says something doubles the risk of some terrible disease, ask: Doubles from what to what?’”

To read his story click here.