We Are Sunshine

TODAY’S HEADLINE STORY: ‘Sun Scare’ article shows how anti-sun naysayers use twisted wording to distort actual research findings

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Internet site published an article Thursday misrepresenting research about indoor tanning — using clever wording to distort actual research findings.

2008-11-21-twisting-the-facts-copy.jpg“The Cancer Monthly article uses convenient language distortion to make it appear that research says things that the data actually don’t say,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “It’s one thing for a lay article to make these mistakes. But when people who should know better twist language to make a statement, that’s troubling.”

For example:

  • Cancer Monthly: “People who use tanning beds likely face the same risk of deadly skin cancer as those who lay out in the sun, according to a report in Pigment Cell Melanoma Research.”
    That statement is totally misleading. The statement relates only the relative risk of indoor tanning compared to outdoor tanning, but ignores the important points: 1) No study exists implicating tanning in a non-burning fashion as the mechanism that increases one’s risk of melanoma. 2) Comparing relative risk without discussing the relatively low absolute risk is misleading, particularly when the absolute risk is low.
  • Cancer Monthly: Those who begin using tanning beds before age 35 face a 75 percent higher risk for melanoma.
    That statistic has been discredited. 1) Because there still is no research establishing a mechanism by which non-burning UV exposure triggers melanoma – this figure is only a correlation, not a causation. 2) The association itself is weak. The studies used to create this statistic included skin type I individuals in European countries who used tanning beds for therapeutic reasons. When those individuals were removed, there was no longer any increase in risk.
  • Cancer Monthly: It’s also likely that tanning beds increase the risk for other types of skin cancers, although the research isn’t yet definitive.
    What does that mean? The research doesn’t exist. Again, there is no causative mechanism established in research.
  • Cancer Monthly: The ratio of UVA to UVB in most tanning beds is similar to that of sunlight, but it’s difficult to know exactly how much exposure you’re getting because the majority of tanning parlors don’t calibrate the tanning beds or measure UVA and UVB output
    Reality: False. UVA and UVB output in tanning equipment is regulated by federal regulations which create exposure schedules based on delivering non-burning levels of UV light to a tanner.
  • Cancer Monthly: “People who tan indoors are actually less protected from ultraviolet rays because they tend to wear fewer clothes than they would outdoors.”
    What that has to do with anything cannot be explained by any research.
  • Cancer Monthly: Researchers still don’t know exactly how much tanning bed exposure is needed to increase the odds of developing melanoma.
    In other words, no research exists identifying moderate tanning as a significant risk factor. The statement is worded as if the question is “what amount is carcinogenic” when, in fact, no one knows if any amount is because the mechanism still has not been identified.

All of which begs the question: Why do anti-tan naysayers need to distort the facts to make their case?