Letters To The Editor – August 13, 2009

Some sunny perspective

Dear Editor,

It is time to sit back and fully evaluate over-the-top reports in the news this week incredibly suggesting that getting a suntan is now in the same risk category as cigarettes, arsenic and even plutonium.

That’s ridiculous. Cigarettes, arsenic and plutonium all undermine the 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 much of that reporting were the very important nuances that define humanity’s very important relationship with UV light and sunshine. Specifically:

• Not one single study exists anywhere 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.

• 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.

• The sum of data do not substantively link indoor tanning equipment with an increased risk of melanoma. Indeed, 18 of 22 epidemiological studies ever conducted on this topic show information was conspicuously absent in what was spoon-fed to the media.

Finally, 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 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 and that respects their intelligence.

M. Chris Ackerman
Sun-Rays Tanning, Established 1987

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