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It is time to sit back and evaluate over-the-top reports in the news suggesting that getting a suntan is now in the same risk category as cigarettes, arsenic and even plutonium.
That is ridiculous. Cigarettes, arsenic and plutonium undermine our body’s natural functions. But getting a suntan is different: It is a part of our body’s natural design.
Humans, like the rest of the planet, need sun exposure to survive and thrive. Ignored in reports are important nuances that define humanity’s important relationship with UV light and sunshine. Specifically:
1. Not one study exists in the world implicating tanning in a non-burning fashion as a significant risk factor for permanent skin damage. Indeed, no study has ever been designed with protocol to ask this question.
2. Melanoma is more common in people who work indoors than in those who work outdoors. Because this is true, the relationship between melanoma and sunlight cannot possibly be clear. If it were a clear relationship, outside workers would have higher incidence than inside workers.
3. Melanoma most commonly appears on parts of the body that do not receive regular exposure to sunlight. Again, because this is true, the relationship between melanoma and sunlight cannot be clear. If it were, melanoma would appear most often on parts of the body that receive the most sunlight.
The sum of the data does not substantively link indoor tanning equipment with an increased risk of melanoma. Indeed, 18 of 22 epidemiological studies conducted on this topic show no significant association, including the largest and most recent. This confounding information was conspicuously absent in what was spoon-fed to the media.
Finally, the dermatology community still continues to use indoor tanning equipment in dermatology offices to treat psoriasis and other cosmetic disorders — a treatment called “phototherapy.” If what was widely reported a couple weeks ago were actually true, then the dermatology profession would be guilty of that which they accuse indoor tanning facilities: of increasing women’s risk of melanoma in exchange for treating a non-lethal disease, which would violate the “never do harm” provision of a physician’s Hippocratic Oath.
Saying that UV exposure is harmful and should be avoided is as wrong as saying water causes drowning and therefore we should avoid water.
My indoor tanning business provides a valuable service in the community teaching people the concepts of moderation and sunburn prevention as part of a practical life-long skin care regimen that respects their intelligence.
Melissa A. Tufarella
Beach Bum Tanning
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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