We Are Sunshine

TODAY’S HEADLINE STORY: Bogus Study Suggests More Tanning Salons Lead to More Teen Tanning.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

San Diego State University researchers published a study this week suggesting that more tanning salons are causing more teenagers to tan — a supposition that defies economics, ignores data and is beyond comprehension to anyone in the tanning market.

2009-02-19-fuzzy-math-copy.jpg“The availability of commercial tanning may be partly responsible for the high rates of indoor tanning among young adults and teens,” the study’s authors said in a summary. The study is published in the March American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The problem: The math makes no sense, nor does the premise.

“The problem is, there aren’t more tanning salons today and there aren’t more teenagers tanning,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “The number of salons hasn’t grown in this decade, and the number of teens who tan today — according to our numbers and dermatology’s numbers as well — has not changed either.”

So how can you write a study suggesting otherwise?

“Beyond the fact that both of the inputs into their premise are factually inaccurate, their premise itself contradicts basic economics: If more people want to tan, then more salons open,” Levy said. “It isn’t the other way around.”

The sources in this story are spinning the issue beyond recognition — and that’s not in anyone’s interest. Misleading people by saying that UV is linked to skin cancer and should be avoided is as ridiculous as saying that water causes drowning, and therefore we should avoid water. It’s a gross misrepresentation.

Bottom line: There is not one single study isolating suntanning from any UV source in a non-burning fashion as a significant risk factor for melanoma. Further, melanoma is more common in indoor workers than it is in outdoor workers and occurs most often on parts of the body that don’t get regular UV exposure.

Oversimplistic statements about UV right now serve to hurt the population — not help it. At a time when we have identified that most Americans and 97 percent of Canadians are vitamin D deficient — caused by over-avoidance of sun exposure — it’s clear that our messaging about UV needs to be moderated. But dermatology lobbbyists and studies linked directly or indirectly to overzealous sunscreen manufacturers (a $35 billion mega-industry that benefits from scaring people into daily over-use of SPF-laced cosmetics) keep spreading an all-out sun avoidance messaging.

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Study says indoor tanning is aided by availability

By Alexa Capeloto
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. February 17, 2009

SAN DIEGO — Young Americans might be turning to indoor tanning, despite its link to skin cancer, because businesses offering the service are so readily available, according to a study by San Diego researchers to be published today.

The study, led by Joni Mayer, a clinical psychologist at San Diego State University, calculated the density of indoor tanning facilities in 116 large U.S. cities and found that tanning salons in San Diego and nationwide outnumber Starbucks or McDonald’s.

Charleston, W.Va., had the highest density, with 33.7 tanning businesses per 100,000 people, while Hialeah, Fla., ranked lowest with 1.3. San Diego has 90 businesses, representing 7.4 per 100,000 people.

“The availability of commercial tanning may be partly responsible for the high rates of indoor tanning among young adults and teens,” states the study’s report, to be published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. –A.C.