Dermatologists Assail Tanning Industry Campaign to Play Down Cancer Risks

The American Academy of Dermatology is responding vigorously to a new campaign by the tanning industry to promote the use of indoor tanning beds, accusing the industry of making claims that are not supported by scientific evidence.

The dermatologists group has sharply criticized the newly formed American Suntanning Association (ASA) for disputing the medical consensus that indoor tanning is dangerous, FairWarning reports, and increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. In a recent statement, the dermatology academy characterized many tanning industry claims as “ridiculous.” In a document posted on TanToday, a tanning industry forum, the ASA says it needs to “debunk the scientific reports being used against us,” and must mount a “major PR and lobbying campaign to bring the truth about indoor tanning to the government and to the public at large.”  Tanning industry members claim that doctors and other health authorities unnecessarily scare the public about indoor tanning, FairWarning wrote last August.

Dermatologists dispute the tanning industry claim that it is possible to “tan responsibly.”  The World Health Organization (WHO) says that ultraviolet (UV) light from tanning beds causes skin cancer. Research by DeAnn Lazovich, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, has linked sunbed use to melanoma. Jerod Stapleton, an assistant professor of medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, told FairWarning that many of the studies cited by indoor tanning proponents are not peer reviewed and appear to rely on cherry-picked data, or they have methodological flaws, or have been funded by the industry.

The tanning industry and the dermatology community are facing off in a number of arenas, including states’ efforts to regulate the use of tanning beds by teens under 18. In a Texas case scheduled to go to trial in September, the state attorney general has sued a salon chain over claims for the health benefits of indoor tanning.

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