We Are Sunshine

Smart Tan Replies To Law Student’s Vitamin D Complaint

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

The International Smart Tan Network sent the following letter to The Daily Texan in response to a University of Texas’ law students complaint that a Texas-based tanning salon was advertising that tanning manufactures vitamin D.

2008-05-02-texas-tales-copy.jpgVitamin D has always been called “The Sunshine Vitamin” for a reason:

Humans make 90 percent of their vitamin D naturally when skin is exposed to UVB in sunlight, making it the only vitamin produced without putting food in your mouth.

So how ridiculous is it for a law student to file a complaint because an indoor tanning facility has the audacity to run an ad stating the incredibly obvious: That UVB light makes vitamin D. (“Darque Tan ads elicit complaint from law student,” The Texan, April 30; to read the Daily Texan story click here).

Indoor tanning equipment was first invented in Europe to raise vitamin D levels in light-deprived northern European countries. And peer-reviewed, clinical research has quantified this: Indoor tanners have 90 percent higher vitamin D levels when compared to non-tanners.

Why is this so significant? More than half of Americans and 97 percent of Canadians are vitamin D deficient. Our modern indoor-dwelling, sunlight-avoiding ways are without a doubt the main cause.

So consider that the multibillion-dollar cosmetics and sunscreen “sun scare” industries now promote daily over-usage of sunscreen products to block any and all UV exposure — a position that sells $35 billion annually in anti-sun products, but which if followed could cause vitamin D deficiency (an SPF 15 blocks 99 percent of vitamin D production) — and you should ask yourself who’s got things backwards.

The professional indoor tanning community is teaching a balanced message: Teaching our communities the risks of overexposure and sunburn, teaching proper usage of sunscreen outdoors for usage when sunburn is a possibility, and all while providing a cosmetic tan in equipment that has always been originally designed to boost vitamin D production.

What is so ironic is that we do a better job at teaching a balanced, supported message than those who are criticizing salons — many of whom misrepresent science to suggest that any and all UV exposure is dangerous, when in fact the actual data do not support that position.
Consider: melanoma is more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers and appears on sun-deprived areas of the body more often than in sun-exposed areas. That couldn’t be possible if there was a direct connection.

And if you actually do the reading you’ll see that 18 of the 22 studies ever conducted on indoor tanning and melanoma show no statistically significant association, including the most recent and largest study. If you understand statistics and read these works objectively you’ll see how anti-sun “sun scare” interests have massaged the data to promote the wrong message.

Keep reading. You will not find a scientific study showing a proven mechanism by which sunscreen prevents melanoma. You will find some confounding studies that suggest sunscreen users might actually be at higher risk for melanoma, that SPF 15 blocks 99 percent of all vitamin D production and that more than half of Americans are vitamin D deficient.

And yet people are upset that a tanning salon dares to state the obvious: That UVB makes vitamin D — a simple fact that could be published in a research journal called “Duh.”

It gets even more dizzying. Seventy percent of salons have clients referred to them by doctors to informally treat medical conditions such as acne, psoriasis and vitamin D deficiency. Many insurance companies actually pay for tanning sessions because they are 10-20 times less expensive than light therapy administered in a clinic using the same equipment.

Bottom line: Saying that “tanning prevents cooties” would be a health claim. Saying that tanning makes vitamin D isn’t a health claim — it’s simply a fact as plain and clear as saying “water quenches thirst.” And since “sun scare” industries aren’t acknowledging this fact in over-the-top anti-UV propaganda, the professional tanning community should be given credit for presenting a balanced picture.

Read if you want to hear more. It’s called the Sunshine Vitamin for a reason.

Joseph Levy, vice president
International Smart Tan Network
Jackson, Michigan