By: Martha Garcia | Published: January 23rd, 2013
The American Academy of Dermatology is harshly criticizing claims made by a lobbying group established by the indoor tanning solon industry, describing statements made about the safety of sunbeds as “ridiculous.”
The recently established American Suntanning Association (ASA), which was launched last month by some of indoor tanning’s leading retailers to combat concerns raised in the media and medical community about the safety of sunbed salons, has made statements that indicate indoor tanning could provide certain benefits and that suggest safety concerns are overblown.
According to a recent report by FairWarning.org, a nonprofit publication that provides public interest journalism, the ASA has been attempting to dispute decades of medical research and advice, minimizing the concerns about UV exposure.
Some statements made by the ASA have suggested that tanning bed use may be beneficial to increase a person’s Vitamin D level and to help with illnesses, such as breast cancer and autism. Such statements are refuted by Institute of Medicine research which says there is no evidence proving the vitamin provides benefits other than improving bone health.
In a press release issued earlier this month by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a medical association that represents nearly all of the practicing dermatologists in the United States, the ASA’s statements supporting indoor tanning were described as “ridiculous” with no medical or scientific support.
The AAD has emphasized scientific evidence linking exposure of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning devices to an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, calling indoor tanning a dangerous practice.
The statement also addressed the confusion between the use of phototherapy for medical treatment and claims tanning beds can also be used as such. The AAD explained, phototherapy is monitored by licensed dermatologists; whereas tanning salons are not.
“Operators have minimal knowledge about the potential side effects of UV light and tanning bed lamps have variable amounts of UVA and UVB light,” said the AAD.
The AAD also cited a recent decision by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which determined claims regarding health benefits of tanning beds made by the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) to be “false and misleading.” It now requires the ITA to disclose the risk of developing skin cancer in any advertisements which discuss health and safety benefits of tanning.
“The bottom line is that as physicians who treat skin cancer, dermatologists are committed to saving lives and protecting the public from the dangers of UV exposure,” said the AAD statement. “We discourage anyone from seeking a tan, whether it’s from the sun or from indoor tanning.”
Mounting Concerns Surrounding Indoor Tanning
The response from the AAD regarding indoor tanning follows a myriad of research linking the practice of indoor tanning to more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year and has found that indoor tanning raised the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by as much as two-thirds.
Another study involving tanning bed use in European countries found a link between tanning beds and the development of melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer. The study estimates one in every 20 cases of melanoma is linked to tanning bed use.
Concerns regarding skin cancer and tanning bed use pushed nearly 30 states to impose some type of limits on teen tanning bed use, with Vermont and California as the first states to ban indoor tanning bed use for anyone under age 18.
Despite the push to protect teens from effects of indoor tanning use, misinformation and delusion have caused many teens to disregard the health warnings. A study published in June 2012 found that more than 50 percent of teens questioned said tanning bed use was no more risky than other common activities.