We Are Sunshine

The Trouble with ‘Sun Scare’

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Since coining the term “sun scare” in 1996, Smart Tan has talked a lot about the anti-tanning lobby’s penchant for distorting the truth about UV light. This is what Smart Tan believes:

“Sun scare” is a multibillion-dollar industry predicated on making you believe that wearing sunscreen chemicals on your skin every day is somehow better for you than simply using chemical sunscreen to prevent sunburn when sunburn is possible. Think of it this way: The difference between those two agendas makes a handful of pharmaceutical companies more money in sunscreen sales than 20,000 indoor tanning companies combined earn telling people to enjoy sunshine correctly.

To promote their agenda, “sun scare” purveyors have engaged a second-tier of well-meaning public health groups who simply don’t know any better – who simply can’t conceive that free UV from the sun or from a sunbed has any value. This tier of sun scare purveyors — in an effort to rightfully increase awareness about sun care — often says the wrong thing the wrong way for the right reasons. But the fact that the intention, to reduce skin damage, is right does not give them a free pass to obscure the facts and ignore conflicting data, as they often do.

For example:

1) Many dermatology industry leaders still maintain that there are no known health benefits to regular sun exposure. This position is totally non-defendable. There is plenty of well-researched material documenting the positive physiological and psychological effects of UV exposure. They are in full denial.

2) Dermatology industry leaders, in efforts to increase awareness about sun care, have clearly overstated the risks associated with UV exposure. For example, dermatology industry leaders and sunscreen-sponsored groups like The Skin Cancer Foundation still advocate daily use of sunscreen 365 days a year in all climates.

This is clearly misbranding the product in seasons and climates where sunburn is not a possibility. Further, as vitamin D experts have shown, this over-use of sunscreen completely prevents the body from naturally manufacturing vitamin D. And vitamin D deficiency in our society appears to be epidemic.

1) Dermatology industry leaders still maintain that an indoor tan does not protect against sunburn outdoors. This contention is laughable, as there are millions of individuals who every year tan indoors prior to sunny vacations or summertime activities to develop base tans. Combined with the proper use of sunscreen outdoors, these base tans help to prevent sunburn. Denying this is ignoring millions of case studies.

2) Dermatology industry leaders, in attempts to scare people out of the sun, often compare tanning to smoking, making the statement that indoor tanning is like a cigarette for your skin. This hyperbole alone calls into question the credibility of overzealous anti-tanning lobbyists.

On one level, comparing the numbers is ridiculous. Smoking is related to 20 percent of all deaths in the United States and 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. What’s more, lung cancer rates are 22 times higher for current male smokers and 12 times higher for current female smokers. In contrast, 18 of 22 studies ever conducted on indoor tanning and melanoma have shown no connection at all, and the four that have alleged small increases in risk have all contained unexplained statistical anomalies.

On another level, smoking introduces substances into your body that your body is not designed to process. In contrast, your body IS designed to process UV light, and in fact is reliant on UV exposure for natural body functions.

The public and the press look up to medical professionals as objective sources of public health information. But when dermatology industry lobbyists obscure the facts and distort the picture to attempt to influence health policy, that creates an abrogation of trust that is unfortunate.

They teach “sun scare” and not “sun care.” That’s where we have them beat.