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Health Unit's view on tanning beds is misleading


Health Unit's view on tanning beds is misleading

mythRecently the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified tanning beds as a Group 1 carcinogenic. Also in this Group 1 classification were arsenic, salted fish, birth control pills, plutonium, red wine and mustard gas. I didn't see a warning from the Health Unit to the public that their favourite merlot may be as deadly as tobacco or arsenic! Why not? Because it's as ridiculous as it sounds yet it is this exact line of thinking that was spread by the media in the past weeks producing inaccurate headlines and stories including the one printed on Thursday, Aug. 6.

The IARC ignored conflicting information in its classification of ultraviolet light as a Group 1 carcinogenic. IARC cited its own report alleging "risk of skin melanoma is increased by 75 per cent when people started using tanning beds before age 30." Ignored in this statement is confounding information pointing out that:

IARC's analysis was flawed. When the palest individuals who cannot tan and only burn (called Skin Type I - people who would not be allowed to tan in a professional, certified tanning salon) were removed from the IARC data set, there was no increase in risk for the group being studied.

In fact no research has ever isolated regular, non-burning exposure to sunlight or indoor tanning as a significant risk factor for any skin disorder. The message to the public should be that repeated sunburns could be harmful, and that's why UV light from any source is classified as a carcinogen.

However do not lose sight of the fact that humans, like every living thing on the plant, NEED sunlight to live. Ninety-seven per cent of Canadians are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency because they do not get enough sun. Consider you would have to drink 100 glasses of whole milk to receive the same amount of Vitamin D received from a tan. Exposure to UV light (whether from a tanning bed or sun) is the only true natural way to make vitamin D, It's called the sunshine vitamin for a reason!

Also neglected to be mentioned are the following facts: 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-cut. If it were a clear-cut relationship, outside workers would have higher incidence than inside workers.
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-cut. If it were, melanomas would appear most often on parts of the body that receive the most sunlight!

Ms. Bergin-Payette, public health nurse, was quoted in your article as saying the new classification was important because "it supports the argument for regulation of artificial tanning to prevent youth from exposing their skin to cancer causing ultraviolet radiation." I take great issue with this as NO study has EVER isolated sun tanning in a non-burning fashion as a risk factor for anything. The sum of data does not substantively link indoor tanning equipment with an increased risk of melanoma.

Indeed, 18 of 22 epidemiological studies ever conducted on this topic show no significant association, including the largest and most recent study. The other four again did not allow for variables such as skin typing.

The Cancer Society is calling for a ban on teen tanning. Consider the following. Indoor tanners sunburn less than non-tanners, including teenagers who tan outdoors. Canada's professional indoor tanning salons are at the forefront in teaching teenagers (and adults) outdoor sunburn prevention, including the proper use of sunscreens to prevent sunburn outdoors. The Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA),the professional association for indoor tanning facilities in Canada, supports parental consent for anyone under 16 who wish to tan in salons. The zeal behind this proposal is not supported by a rational, objective look at the data. We believe that proper education, not blanket regulation, is the most effective way to enact good public health policy.

The JCTA detailed its objections in its position paper sent to the Standing Committee on Social Policy about Ontario's Bill 83. The bill calls for a prohibition on selling or supplying tanning services or ultraviolet light treatment services to persons under the age of 19. "We are opposed to this bill because while we support constructive and cooperative measures to increase UV awareness and sunburn prevention, passage of Bill 83 would hurt more people than it helps and will lead to an increase in sunburn and skin injury in Ontario," says JCTA executive director Steve Gilroy
"We encourage all in this debate to go to and click on the Media tab to see the reasons why the JCTA opposes any attempt to ban tanning for anyone under 19. The facts don't support a ban. If Bill 83 were enacted, it's likely that sunburn incidence in this age group will increase. This would be hurting people, not helping them," Gilroy added

It is the industry's belief that indoor tanning for those that can tan, is the smartest way to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with either too much or to little sunlight.

hippocratic oathFinally, consider this hypocrisy: The dermatology community still continues to use indoor tanning equipment in dermatology offices to treat psoriasis and other purely cosmetic disorders - a treatment called "phototherapy." If what was widely reported last week 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 that water causes drowning, and therefore we should avoid water.

My indoor tanning business provides a valuable service in this community - teaching people the concepts of moderation and sunburn prevention as part of a practical life-long skin care regimen that respects their intelligence. 
Be responsible, be informed.
Tracey McKone - Owner/manager - Endless Summer Tanning Spa - Mitchell


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