We Are Sunshine

TODAY’S HEADLINE STORY: USA Weekend spouts an oft-quoted mis-statistic to slam tanning

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Tabloid USA Weekend — distributed in 623 newspapers to 23 million readers — printed the misleading statement in its Sept. 28 magazine that “Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is now the second-most-common cancer among women ages 25 to 29, says the National Cancer Institute.”

2008-10-03-lies-statistics-copy.jpgAccording to the tabloid, “The biggest danger comes from, you guessed it, the desire to be tan. In fact, more young women are using indoor tanning beds, a probable cause of melanoma.”

The trouble is the statistic is misleading without broad context and the declaration that tanning is to blame has no statistical basis whatsoever.

“To suggest that melanoma is the most common cancer in women aged 25 to 29 without saying that no cancer in that age group is common at all makes the statistic misleading, particularly when you consider that melanoma is actually decreasing in mortality in that age group, that it is decreasing in both mortality and incidence in that age group in Canada, and that the group with the largest increase by far is men over age 50,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said.

“Men over age 50 are not the people who are tanning. So how can you say that tanning is the cause of melanoma when there are no studies whose protocol can isolate tanning in a non-burning fashion as a cause?”

The magazine also pointed out — but did not explain — that melanoma occurs most often in women on their legs and in men on their backs.

“Those facts are deal-killers in terms of their main point,” Levy said. “Melanoma is most common on parts of the body that do not get regular sun exposure. If sunlight were the cause in a direct fashion, as the sun scare lobby has suggested, these facts would not be possible.”