Burned by Health Warnings, Defiant Tanning Industry Assails Doctors, ‘Sun Scare’ Conspiracy

Joe Levy, executive director of the International Smart Tan Network, a salon association. He is point man in the industry's campaign to shift the conversation from indoor tanning's health risks to its purported benefits.

A doctor in a white lab coat stands at the pearly gates. The voice of God booms, “And your good deeds?” The man responds, “Well, as a dermatologist, I’ve been warning people that sunlight will kill them and that it’s as deadly as smoking.”

His smug smile fades as God snaps, “You’re saying that sunlight, which I created to keep you alive, give you vitamin D and make you feel good, is deadly? And the millions of dollars you received from chemical sunscreen companies had nothing to do with your blasphemy?”

A bottle of SPF 1000 sunscreen materializes in the dermatologist’s hand. “You’ll need that where you’re going,” God says.

The scene is part of a training video for tanning salon employees made by the International Smart Tan Network, an industry group. The tone is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s part of a defiant campaign to defend the $4.9 billion industry against mounting evidence of its questionable business practices and the harm caused by tanning. And, in an extraordinary touch, it is portraying doctors and other health authorities as the true villains — trying to counter a broad consensus among medical authorities that sunbed use increases the risk of skin cancers including melanoma, the most lethal form.

To sway public opinion, the industry is drawing on its vast network of outlets; there are more tanning salons in the U.S. than McDonald’s restaurants. Some salon operators are putting trainees through a “D-Angel Empowerment Training” program, which includes the video, purchased by FairWarning from Smart Tan’s website. It is intended to give employees talking points to use outside the salon to argue that tanning is a good source of vitamin D, and thus a bulwark against all manner of illness including breast cancer, heart disease and autism.

The industry has also gone on the offensive using tactics that appear cribbed from Big Tobacco’s playbook to undermine scientific research and fund advocacy groups that serve the industry’s interests.

At the heart of the industry’s message is the idea that tanning critics such as dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers and even charities like the American Cancer Society are part of a profit-driven conspiracy. These critics are described as a “Sun Scare industry” that aims to frighten the public into avoiding all exposure to UV light. The tanning industry blames this group for causing what it calls a deadly epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, and tries to position itself as a more trustworthy source of information on tanning’s health effects.

What tanning proponents rarely point out is that the notion of a vitamin D epidemic is disputed, and even if you need more of the vitamin, you can safely and easily get vitamin D from dietary supplements and certain foods.

Even as they themselves use techniques cigarette companies pioneered, some in the tanning industry compare the Sun Scare group to the tobacco industry. “The Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people,” Joseph Levy, executive director of Smart Tan and one of the industry’s most visible leaders, said in the D-Angel video.

Feeling the heat

Chelsea Price of Roanoke, Va., a former tanning salon patron, was diagnosed with Stage III malignant melanoma in 2011.

The indoor tanning industry’s image has taken a beating in recent years. In 2009, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer designated UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans. Subsequent research supports this conclusion, including a large University of Minnesota study that found indoor tanners have a 74 percent greater risk of developing melanoma, overall, than those who have never used sunbeds. What’s more, it identified a dose-response relationship. That is, the more time you spend in a sunbed, the more likely you are to develop melanoma.

The notoriety of the so-called Tanning Mom – the leathery-faced New Jersey mother charged with child endangerment after allegedly bringing her redheaded kindergartner into a tanning bed – certainly didn’t help the cause.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Dermatology urge minors not to use sunbeds. But teens, more worried about looks than health risks, are an important part of the industry’s clientele, and salons cater to minors with Back-to-School sales and prom specials.  California and Vermont prohibit youths under 18 from tanning indoors, and New York this month imposed a ban for those under 17. Thirty-three states regulate teen tanning to a lesser extent, according to the research firm IBISWorld.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission and Texas Attorney General have attempted to rein in marketing messages they say misrepresent the risks of tanning. The Texas lawsuit is pending, but the FTC reached a settlement with the industry’s largest trade group, the Indoor Tanning Association, in 2010.

Still, misleading messages continue to be the norm, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported in February.

After two invasive surgeries on five parts of her body, Price is free of the melanoma she believes is linked to tanning indoors. But the disease is aggressive with a high rate of recurrence, so she has a skin exam, blood tests and a CT scan every three months.

Posing as fair-skinned teenagers, undercover investigators phoned 300 salons nationwide and found 90 percent of employees they spoke with said tanning did not pose a health risk. What’s more, 51 percent denied that sunbeds increase cancer risk. Industry groups say the questions were posed in a leading way and that investigators would have been more fully informed of risks had they visited salons in person.

Despite the bad press, the indoor tanning industry is holding steady. It showed slow but continued growth over the last three years, and revenues are expected to edge up to $5 billion by 2017, according to an IBISWorld analysis. White women ages 18-21 are the leading customers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May. Nationally, 32 percent of women in the group visited tanning salons in 2010, including 44 percent in the Midwest. In all, every year an estimated 28 million Americans tan indoors.

The changing demographics of melanoma

At an age when most people feel invincible, 25-year-old Chelsea Price is living life in three-month increments. In January 2011, she was diagnosed with Stage III malignant melanoma that had spread to several lymph nodes.

Price’s first reaction was giggles. Her doctor was a kidder and had seemed unconcerned about the mole he’d removed, even reassuring her that he was doing it just to be safe. “I wish I was joking,” he said when he delivered the news.

After two invasive surgeries on five parts of her body, Price shows no sign of melanoma today. But Stage III melanoma is an aggressive cancer with a high rate of recurrence, so Price goes to doctors every three months for a skin check, CT scan and blood tests to make sure she’s still cancer-free.

She is also taking part in an immunotherapy clinical trial, so every three months she travels from her Roanoke, Va., home to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She never knows how she’ll feel after a treatment or if a scan will turn up trouble. “It dictates my life,” Price said.

Meghan Rothschild of Northampton, Mass., was 20 when she was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Rothschild speaks to high school and college groups about the dangers of sunbeds.

Like many melanoma patients, Price is young, female and a former tanning salon user, though it’s impossible to say with certainty whether the time she spent in sunbeds caused her illness. What started at age 14 as a way to look good for a school dance eventually became part of Price’s preparations for special occasions and a way to bond with her sorority sisters.

Yet Price was no tanning addict; she used sunbeds only for a couple of months each year and she never burned. “Despite not having a family history and not getting any bad sunburns, here I am. I am the person who did it safely and in moderation, but yet I’m here,” Price said.

Price is hardly alone. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and diagnoses of melanoma, though still rare, have increased steeply over the last 40 years. Melanoma among white women ages 15-39 has shown a particularly striking rise, up 50 percent from 1980 to 2004, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The typical melanoma patient has changed over a generation, says Dr. Bruce Brod, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. When he started out 20 years ago, Brod’s typical melanoma patient was a middle-aged male who’d gotten too much sun over the years. Today, most of the people he treats for the cancer are young women. “The patient demographic for melanoma has really shifted and I think that’s thanks to the tanning salons,” Brod said.

Misleading messages

In 2008, the Indoor Tanning Association fired the first shot in the industry’s battle to defend itself against its critics, with a full-page ad in The New York Times. In block letters it read, “Tanning Causes Melanoma.” The word “HYPE” was stamped over the statement. Smaller print read, “There is no compelling evidence that tanning causes melanoma. Scientists have proven, however, that exposure to all forms of ultraviolet light – both indoors and out – stimulates the natural production of vitamin D.” The ad went on to claim that the vitamin protects against heart disease and many cancers. Similar statements also were made in television commercials.

The ad campaign was designed by Richard Berman, the Washington lobbyist and public relations executive. His work to defend the alcohol industry, and attack unions and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has earned him the nickname “Dr. Evil” among his critics. Health groups saw this campaign as further evidence of both his and the tanning industry’s mendacity, and the FTC accused the association of making false claims about sunbed use.

“The messages promoted by the indoor tanning industry fly in the face of scientific evidence,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a 2010 statement. The tanning association and the FTC reached a settlement in 2010 that included no fines, but barred the tanning association from making misleading statements, misrepresenting tests or studies or making any unfounded health claims. Under the agreement, the tanning association must “clearly and conspicuously” display a notice stating the risks of indoor tanning and, when making statements about the health benefits of vitamin D, state that consumers do not have to become tan to get it.

Asked if the tanning association is in compliance with the FTC settlement, Janet Evans, a senior attorney at the commission who handled the tanning association case, declined to comment.

The tanning association has not mounted another large public relations campaign since 2008. Instead, it directs most of its resources toward lobbying. The association had 37 registered lobbyists in 16 states in 2011, according to National Institute on Money in State Politics data.

Vitamin D claims are also at the center of the Texas Attorney General’s case against Darque Tan, a chain with more than 100 salons nationwide. It is charged with illegally claiming in advertising materials that use of its tanning devices reduces the risk of cancer and provides other health benefits. The attorney general is seeking an injunction that would halt the allegedly misleading ads as well as unspecified monetary penalties.

But the threat of sanctions has had a limited impact. In fact, some see the FTC agreement as giving the Indoor Tanning Association carte blanche to make any health claims it wants to, as long as it displays a disclaimer. “The FTC suit was a triumph,” Robbie Segler, president of Darque Tan, wrote on the online industry forum TanToday in September 2011. “It didn’t cost the board [members] a single penny, and it ended in a settlement which enabled the ITA [Indoor Tanning Association] to connect vitamin D to tanning beds, with a disclaimer statement.”

The industry champions the work of a handful of physicians and self-styled health experts who promote the idea that Americans suffer from an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, which puts them at risk for serious health problems. The body creates the so-called sunshine vitamin in response to sunlight, and many in the indoor tanning industry promote sunbeds as a surrogate for natural light. In doing so, the industry shifts the debate from indoor tanning’s health risks to more favorable turf – its potential health benefits.

Click chart for larger view

This strategy echoes the tobacco industry’s early attempts to promote its products as healthy, said David Jones, a dermatologist in Newton, Mass., who co-authored a 2010 paper comparing the marketing tactics of the tobacco and indoor tanning industries. “The tanning industry is doing the same thing,” he said.

Vitamin D plays a widely acknowledged role in bone health and immune function, but the prevailing medical opinion is that evidence that vitamin D prevents cancer is inconclusive. The National Cancer Institute says there is evidence that the vitamin may reduce risk of one cancer, colorectal cancer, but even those results are inconsistent.

But the tanning industry’s promotional materials present such claims about vitamin D’s health benefits as undisputed facts.

Shooting the messenger

Taking a page from the tobacco playbook, the tanning industry attacks the research behind the mainstream medical consensus that indoor tanning increases risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Tanning advocates insist that the links between UV exposure and melanoma are not well understood. “The dermatology lobby has not represented that relationship accurately,” said Smart Tan’s Levy.

You can promote a message to your friends and neighbors that the Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people.”

    – Joe Levy, executive director of International Smart Tan Network, in an employee training video

But DeAnn Lazovich, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, says the latest research “provides even stronger evidence” that UV light from sunbeds is carcinogenic.

The industry also takes aim at its critics’ integrity using an approach that Berman has called “shoot the messenger.” The line “What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?” taken from a vintage television ad claiming more doctors smoked Camels than any other brand, is a refrain in the D-Angel training video. Levy uses this and other ads to portray the medical profession in general as having shilled for the tobacco industry. While the American Medical Association pocketed industry money, and some tobacco companies claimed that doctors endorsed their brands, Levy makes the dubious assertion that the medical profession broadly endorsed smoking as healthful. He contends that physicians continue to endanger public health in the interest of profits.

[Editor's Note: Segments of the video that originally appeared with this story have been taken down. A claim of copyright infringement by the International Smart Tan Network prompted FairWarning's website host to block access to the story. We are confident the display of clips from the video is protected under the doctrine of ''fair use,'' but for now have removed the video to restore access to the story.]

In 2008 the Indoor Tanning Association launched an ad campaign downplaying indoor tanning's health risks.

Levy, more specifically, says dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers and anti-cancer groups spread a “fear based message” that spurs sunscreen sales, sells ads in glossy fashion magazines and sends frightened people to the doctor for skin checks.

“What if there’s a new and powerful coalition marketing health care products that could kill more people than tobacco did?” Levy asks in the video. “It’s happening again. This is the mega-billion dollar Sun Scare industry. And it’s no longer tobacco that they’re selling. Today, it’s chemical sunscreen and an anti-UV message designed to tell you that any UV exposure is bad for you. It’s the same thing as doctors being arm-in-arm with Big Tobacco.”

Asked to defend this statement, Levy provided no direct evidence of a plot. Instead, he referred to a study that suggested if Americans increased their vitamin D levels, nearly 400,000 premature deaths per year could be prevented – about the same number of premature deaths that, federal health authorities said, are caused by tobacco. But Lazovich said the study cited by Levy was based on unclear calculations and “cherry picked” data.

Levy, who worked as an investigative business journalist in Michigan before joining the tanning industry, is a pivotal figure in defending the business. While a vice president at Smart Tan, he also served as an officer of two non-profit vitamin D advocacy groups – The Vitamin D Foundation and the Vitamin D Alliance – and served as the executive director of the Vitamin D Society, a Canadian group.

Yet the close ties between the tanning industry and the web of nonprofit groups that promote the health benefits of Vitamin D often are not readily apparent. The website for the Vitamin D Foundation, for example, discloses no industry affiliation, though 2010 tax documents reveal that its top personnel were all people in the business. In addition to Levy, they include the CEO of Beach Bum Tanning, a chain with 53 salons, and the president of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association, who also owns a large chain of salons.

These groups raise money at salons by selling tanning lotions, wrist bands and T-shirts. Then they funnel the funds to vitamin D researchers and organizations that reinforce the industry’s claims about the vitamin’s health benefits, while directly or indirectly promoting the idea that tanning is healthful. One such organization is the Breast Cancer Natural Prevention Foundation, which promotes vitamin D for breast cancer prevention.

Dr. Sandra Russell, a Michigan doctor, in a pro-tanning ad from a 2007 issue of Tanning Trends magazine. Russell recently helped start a non-profit group that promotes vitamin D and sunlight for cancer prevention.

The founders include Dr. Sandra K. Russell, an obstetrician-gynecologist who appeared in advertisements for Smart Tan wearing her lab coat and a stethoscope.

In promoting the health benefits of UV-induced vitamin-D, the tanning industry must tread carefully – after all, health claims were central to the FTC complaint, the Texas Attorney General’s case and the congressional report that blasted the industry. But the FTC cannot police what indoor tanning salon employees say when they are off the clock, and the D-Angel training program  takes advantage of that.

In the video, Levy is explicit about what salon employees are allowed to say at work and what they should say on their own time. He encourages the D-Angels to follow what he calls the “Clark Kent/Superman” model. Inside the salon, employees should be Clark Kents who refrain from making health claims about vitamin D and direct clients to industry websites that make pro-tanning claims that are carefully calibrated to stay inside legal bounds. Beyond salon walls, however, employees can spread their wings, becoming superheroes who expose the lies of sunscreen manufacturers and dermatologists and share the vitamin D gospel. “Outside the salon, you can be a D-Angel,” Levy says in the video. “You can promote a message to your friends and neighbors that the Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people.”

But the reality for salon employees is more complex, says Lisa Graubard, a 15-year industry veteran who managed three salons on the New Jersey shore. Graubard is not anti-tanning but says salon employees need better training. While she tried to provide accurate information to customers, there was sometimes pressure to downplay risks, “There are definitely salons in the industry that are like, ‘We’re not going to use the c-word,’” she said.

This altered tobacco ad is used in a salon employee training video to suggest that doctors once shilled for the tobacco industry and now shill for sunscreen companies.

Graubard acknowledged that some of her own customers kept tanning even after they’d developed skin cancer, although employees encouraged them to use sunscreen on the areas where they had growths removed. One man, she recalled, was coming to tan even as he was undergoing melanoma treatment. He would come to the salon with bandages still on his face from surgery. Graubard has since left the industry after years of tanning have caused discoloration on her face.

During her time in the industry, Graubard saw her clientele shift from older people to younger girls. By the time she left, teens as young as 14 or 15 were coming in, begging to tan without the legally required parental permission. She’d turn them away, but it was common knowledge that a chain down the street let young teens tan without parental permission. “Consent? It was like a joke,” she said.

Meghan Rothschild was 17 when she started tanning indoors. A self-described “splotchy white girl,” she found tanning gave her a confidence boost that she still misses today, eight years after she was diagnosed with melanoma at age 20. She was angry with herself when her doctor first gave the diagnosis, “He started throwing out terms like lymph node extraction and survival rates, talking about surgery. The only thing I could think of is ‘You did this to yourself, you idiot.’”

But today, Rothschild blames a lack of regulation and an industry that she says did not accurately communicate the risks to consumers. Though she signed a postcard-sized waiver at the salon she used, the consent form seemed more about releasing the salon from liability than informing her of potential health problems. Rothschild, who lives in Northampton, Mass., speaks to high school and college groups frequently about the risks of indoor tanning.

The choice of whether to use indoor tanning facilities, Rothschild said, should not be left up to youth who don’t understand the risks or have the foresight to think about the consequences. “There’s no reason we should allow kids to do this. We don’t allow them to smoke,” she said.

While teens’ access to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs is legally restricted, they have comparatively easy access to sunbeds in most states and receive little education about their risks. “When we were in health class we got safe sex education, alcohol training. They said don’t smoke, don’t drink until you’re 21,” she said. “But the kids aren’t smoking anymore. They are using tanning beds. The tanning booth is going to be the cigarette of our generation.”

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bridget

About the author

Bridget Huber is a FairWarning contributor.

10 comments to “Burned by Health Warnings, Defiant Tanning Industry Assails Doctors, ‘Sun Scare’ Conspiracy”

  1. Matthew Mabey

    Just as a segment of the climate change advocacy and research communities are to blame for the success of the climate change deniers, so to are extremist dermatologists to blame for giving an opening to skin cancer risk deniers by making claims and advocating steps beyond what the data support. Human skin exposure to natural sunlight should be moderate. That is a sound health message. Instead, the dermatologists say all sun exposure is bad and you will die if you ever leave any skin exposed. Tanning beds are a dangerous and silly idea, but the dermatologists share blame for the fact that the general public is not recieving a clear and accurate message about skin cancer risks. If scientists and others could just stick with the facts and not make wild leaps beyond the facts, then society could more easily choose a wise path into the future. Instead to many crusading scientists leap into the realm of fantasy in an effort to pursuade people to one “cause” or another. Shame on truth twisters on both sides of any issue.

  2. sac

    Oh…let’s see here…the tanning industry is a 4.9 billion dollar industry…the sunscreen industry is over 200 billion dollars, yet the mom and pop shops of the small tanning business can out spend, out lobby and out influence the giant pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies. Are you sheeple really THAT naive. Other than the forward grassroot groups with no ties to medical or chemical corporations, no one ever pushes a message that is even remotely balanced about moderate sun exposure.
    Yeah..the tanning industry is like big tobacco like the sun is like a giant microwave. C’mon people, smell the coffee and get your 20 minutes of unprotected daily morning sun. Or don’t.

  3. steven

    Tanning beds: What do the numbers really mean?
    May. 7th, 2010 by Pia Christensen
    Filed under: Health data, Health journalism, Studies
    This is a guest post from Ivan Oransky , M.D., editor of Reuters Health and AHCJ’s treasurer, has written at my invitation.
    May has been declared “Melanoma Awareness Month ” or “Skin Cancer Awareness Month “ – depending on which group is pitching you – and reporters are doubtlessly receiving press releases and announcements from a number of groups, including the Melanoma Research Foundation , the Skin Cancer Foundation , hospitals, doctors and other organizations.
    Those press releases often point to the World Health Organization , which reports that “use of sunbeds before the age of 35 is associated with a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma” – a statistic often repeated in news stories about tanning beds.

    But what does that really mean? Is it 75 percent greater than an already-high risk, or a tiny one? If you read the FDA’s “Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays ,” or a number of other documents from the WHO and skin cancer foundations, you won’t find your actual risk.
    That led AHCJ member Hiran Ratnayake to look into the issue in March for The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal , after Delaware passed laws limiting teens’ access to tanning salons. The 75 percent figure is based on a review of a number of studies, Ratnayake learned. The strongest such study was one that followed more than 100,000 women over eight years .
    But as Ratnayake noted, that study “found that less than three-tenths of 1 percent who tanned frequently developed melanoma while less than two-tenths of 1 percent who didn’t tan developed melanoma.” That’s actually about a 55 percent increase, but when the study was pooled with others, the average was a 75 percent increase. In other words, even if the risk of melanoma was 75 percent greater than two-tenths of one percent, rather than 55 percent greater, it would still be far below one percent.

    Actually the data that the use tanning beds ARE NOT a leading cause of skin cancer is overwhelming….less than 1%. Do your homework and get some sun. Pale is frail.
    It’s so strange when people who bash the sun present a picture of themselves, they are overwhelmingly pasty and pale skin types 1 or 2 who can’t really tan if they wanted to. Please stop telling us lucky ones who can get a natural healthy tan about the dangers of the sun and UV light. We know it’s BS…we know sun beds were designed by doctors to help cure skin ailments and help reduce SADS, and we know that a tan not only makes us look healthier, it makes us feel healthier because we are healthier.

  4. Mary

    I would love to see a chart of legislators and who their major campaign contributors are.

  5. Ron

    Tim Tim Tim. Oh how your so wrong. As far as Mayos report it clearly states proffesional tanning salons the increase is 6% 40% for home units as can go as long as you want and the big big one is medical(derms) 96%. They lump together and bam there is the number. Now 6% doesnt seem like it would scare many people so thats why its not reported that way. Also when saying tanning beds are in same class as mustard gas. Guess what else is in that group? Red wine, Salted fish and yes sunlight. So if using tanning beds all give us 75% chance of skin cancer run for the caves as we are all going to die cause i am sure we all saw some sun this summer. The sun was made for all living things and when you cant get the sun tanning (sunbeds) are next best option. If the sun went away the world would die. But it would be funny having all the sun haters lined up at tanning salons to get a healthy dose. Yes i know the world would freeze and everything on it. So lets all look at it it like this. Getting some uv from sun or tanning beds is good for your whole body and it will help you prevent way more than will cause. I would also like to say go live in a cave for 2 months and eat all the vitamin d foods and pills and see how you feel. I am out….

  6. Don

    Wow I am not sure where to start. When we look at any product that can potentially damage our bodies, we must first look at . Over useage or Abuse. It may be true that some people who overuse tanning beds may develop some form of skin cancer, but in most cases, it is the non-lethal variety, not malignant melanoma. Did you know that Melanoma occurs more in men, than women? HUM! Now why would that be? Researchers have found that men who develop melanoma get it in areas that are not exposed to the sun. Behind the knee, under the arm, behind the ear. More office workers develop melanoma, than those who work outside (like construction workers and farmers). OK, now why would that be? it is a proven science that the sun gives the body beneficial disease and ailment fighting defenses, but a 2nd degree sunburn is a bad thing. If one is to get a 2nd degree sunburn (blistering and thick peeling) the effects usually do not show up for a least 10-20 years. Derms know why this is! If you receive a bad sunburn as a child, you “may” develop a skin abnormality in the adolescent years, because you have done direct DNA damage to your skin and when that occurs many cell changes happen. Sharon when you were young did you ever go outside? When you went outside, beach, lake etc, did you ever develop a severe sunburn? Have you ever used a tanning bed and if you did, did you wait the required 48 hours as a teen that most states require before exposing your skin to the sun or a UV lamp? Folks it really is all about moderation and education and Smart Tan teaches both! As for overuse of Sunscreen, well we know that Sunscreen if left on for over an hour, will slowly leach into the lower layers of your skin and cause indirect dna damage, this true and the FDA has sunscreen on the radar. Many have reported issue when overusing sunscreen. One thing.,. If you do not have high Vitamin D levels in your blood, you are putting your health at risk. UV light gives you this beneficial hormone. It is responsible for Calcium Disposition, in other words, breaking up of calcium deposits in your body and blood supply. Picture that for a minute! It is needed for a body to be healthy, but if you overwork your liver with too much supplements, it can harm you in the long term. The sun is an important part of every living person’s life, just be smart and cover up if necessary, get a good base tan or use sunscreen only when needed. it is a NOT A DAILY MOISTURIZER!

  7. Ron

    Melanoma happens to everyone. It doesn’t just happen because you use a tanning bed. It is not good to over use like anything. If you drink to much water you can die so dont drink water then. Why did sunlight on living things win a Nobel prize? Because your body needs it as do all living things. And if it was really a 75% chance of getting skin cancer they would be banned for everyone. The numbers from mayo are like this. 6% for professional tanning salons, 40% for home units as uncontrolled and the worst ready for this, medical progression 96% due to very high uvb output that burns the skin. But they are still allowed to use them to treat people. Also during the testing they used type 1 skin which really shouldn’t tan or very little. People you have to worry more about the food you eat than a tan in real sun or tanning bed. Go live in a cave and take vitamin d pills and see how your health does. Good for Joe for fighting what we believe.

  8. Sharon K. Swanger

    As a Stage IV metastatic melanoma survivor, I’ve been working here in PA to get legislation passed that would protect our PA kids from the dangers of tanning beds. The evidence to support legislation of this type is overwhelming and conclusive beyond a doubt. Tanning beds harm not just teens, but everyone. I pray for the day when this will become a federal mandate – children under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed in tanning beds. Period. Parental consent is simply not enough!

    Thanks for a well written article.

  9. Ron

    Tim do your research. Melanoma deaths are unchanged. Skin cancer has gone up as fast as sunscreen sales. Getting natural vitamin d from uv will prevent way more cancer than it will ever cause. Proper levels cut breast cancer which is second biggest by 50%. Why have rickets made a come back after 80 years? Sun scare. Why do people that work indoors get more skin cancer than those who work in the sun? Anything derms cut off people they call cancer. And cigarettes are nothing like tanning. Your body needs air water and sun to survive. Go tanning your body will thank you .

  10. Tim Turnham

    The tanning industry’s misinformation campaign highlighted in this article will no doubt cost lives. The statistics and medical evidence are clear. The majority of melanoma is due to UV exposure. A Mayo Clinic study found that it takes only one blistering sunburn to more than double a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life. Additionally, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%, and younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them.

    Bottom line: exposure to UV radiation causes melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. On the other hand, people who want to increase the amount of Vitamin D in their bodies can do that without exposing themselves to a proven carcinogen. A simple inexpensive supplement from your local pharmacy or nutrition store will do just fine.

    The parallels between cigarettes and tanning beds are uncanny. Through clever marketing and obfuscation of basic science, both industries have managed to associate their products with beauty and glamour, while hiding the addictive and deadly effects of using their products. Given the rampant misinformation coming from the tanning industry, we can’t underestimate the importance of Congress and the FDA stepping up to ensure accountability from the industry in telling the truth about their products. Clear warning labels are a must. Smart laws that protect kids from the dangers of tanning bed use – the same way we protect them from cigarettes or alcohol – are a public servant’s duty. In the face of alarming increases in the rates of melanoma, particularly among young people, it’s the least we can do.

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