We Are Sunshine

TODAY’S HEADLINE STORY: What Research Really Says About Tanning and Teens

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Smart Tan believes the anti-sun lobby has twisted and misrepresented the truth when it comes to the subject of teenagers and sun exposure. The indoor tanning community’s approach — teaching teens sunburn prevention, not sun avoidance — makes sense because:

  • 2008-05-23-teen-truth-copy.jpg Studies have shown that teens who tan in salons are less likely to sunburn outdoors compared to non-tanners. What’s more, 83 percent of teenagers who tan indoors prior to taking sunny vacations report that their indoor tan, combined with the proper use of sunscreen, helped them to prevent sunburn.
  • 72 percent of teenagers who currently tan indoors say they would simply tan more aggressively outdoors or purchase home tanning units — both of which are more likely to produce sunburns — if they were not able to tan indoors.
  • There is no data to suggest that tanning is more dangerous for any specific age group. Photobiology suggests that burning (not tanning) at an early age could increase risk later in life. As we just discussed, indoor tanners sunburn less than non-tanners, including teen-agers who tan outdoors.
  • Indoor tanning facilities today are at the forefront in teaching teenagers outdoor sunburn prevention, including the proper use of sunscreens to prevent sunburn outdoors.
  • Skin cancer statistics do not support the theory that teen-agers are at a greater risk today. Mortality from melanoma skin cancer among women aged 15-20 has decreased more than 50 percent since 1980, according to the National Center for Health Statistics SEER Data program (25 nationwide in 2000, vs. 52 in 1980). Several papers have been written about the fact that it is statistically impossible for incidence of a disease to rise dramatically and for mortality to decline. The most likely confounder: Increased surveillance and a broader definition today of what constitutes a melanoma as compared to years past.
  • The concern about melanoma has not been presented correctly. The photobiology science is clear on this: Sunlight’s connection with melanoma is complex: Indoor workers are at greater risk than outdoor workers, and melanoma occurs most commonly on parts of the body that do not receive regular sun exposure. These facts both prove that UV does not have a straight-forward relationship with melanoma.
  • Indoor tanning in a non-burning fashion has not been linked to melanoma. 18 of 22 studies on this topic show no connection and the four that do all have obvious confounding factors that aren’t accounted for. Additionally, one of the four is by an author who recently completed a larger study — the largest conducted to date — that shows no connection.