Tanning and Melanoma Link From Flawed Study
In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a
review of data that alleged a link between melanoma and the use of tanning
beds. The founder of Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC) &endash; William B. Grant, Ph.D., recently had a study published in the
"Dermato-Endocrinology" peer-reviewed journal that challenges those findings.
Grant, who previously worked as an atmospheric research scientist for NASA,
studied the same scientific data IARC had used. However, his conclusions rival
those of IARC, thereby suggesting their findings were erroneous.
As reported in Earth Times 03/10 New Study by SUNARC Shows Tanning and Melanoma Link Scientifically Flawed
The study shows that there is no statistically significant connection between
sunbeds and melanoma in those who can develop suntans (skin type II-VI), with
increased risk centered only on those whose skin is so fair it cannot tan (skin
William B. Grant, PhD re-examined the same epidemiological data used by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) group from their findings in
2007 titled, "The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant
melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review." Grant's study strongly
challenges this review and argues it is both flawed and cannot be used as the
basis for U.S. health policy.
The IARC review originally claimed a 15% increased risk of melanoma for ever use
of sunbeds and a 75% increased risk in melanoma for respondents who had ever
used or first used a tanning bed prior to age 35. Grant's findings show that
with the removal of those with skin type I who possess the greatest genetic
risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM), there fails to be any statistically
significant link between ever use of indoor tanning facilities and CMM.
According to Dr. Grant's Analysis:
• The reported 75% increased risk of melanoma for those ever having used a sunbed
prior to age 35 drops to a 25% reduced risk of melanoma in the United States
based on a scientifically-centered reanalysis of the data in the IARC report.
• When skin type I is omitted from the IARC analysis, the reported 15% increased
risk in melanoma fails to remain statistically significant. This is based on a
meta-analysis of the 14 studies not from the UK, where skin type I is most
• The IARC study inappropriately combined four studies from northern Europe, one
from the UK, one from Canada, and one from the U.S. in the analysis of first
use of sunbeds before the age of 35 years. There are vast differences between
American and European sunbed regulations and use. US regulations do not allow
Skin Type I patrons to tan, European tanning beds are often used at home or are
unsupervised and do not follow the regulations in the U.S. The study fails to
state that its findings are not, and should not be considered "universal
"The reason this 'Skin Type I' distinction is so important is that we now know
that UV avoidance among people who can develop a tan has contributed to
epidemic-level vitamin D deficiency in North America, with 3 out of 4 Americans
being vitamin D deficient today," said Grant. "Our public health messages about
the benefits of UV radiation from any source need to recognize this."
The IARC report was a meta-analysis of epidemiologic surveys -- questionnaire
surveys designed to retrospectively identify correlations, but which do not by
nature identify causation. As stated in the IARC report, "Epidemiologic studies
to date give no consistent evidence that use of indoor tanning facilities in
general is associated with the development of melanoma or skin cancer."
Melanoma's connection with UV exposure is controversial, as research clearly
shows it is more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers and is more
common on parts of the body that aren't regularly exposed to sunlight,
implicating sun burning rather than regular tanning.
The IARC review also neglected to:
• Find a dose-response relation between the amount of sunbed use and risk of
melanoma -which would be key to establishing a causal relationship.
• Recognize a growing body of literature that shows that non-burning UVB exposure
reduces the risk of CMM, and that recreational exposure and sun burning
• Cite other potential reasons for increases in melanoma, including: geography,
differing sunbed regulations in various locations, gender, increased travel to
sunny places, greater levels of sunscreen use, or the nature of solar UV
Importance Of Sunlight And Vitamin D To Our Survival
Another recent study from Grant, "In Defense of the Sun," published in
Dermato-Endrocrinology, suggests that raising vitamin D blood levels to 45
ng/ml could reduce mortality rates in the United States by 15% and prevent up
to 400,000 premature deaths from vitamin D deficiency-related diseases
annually. Such diseases include many types of cancers, cardiovascular disease,
heart failure, respiratory infections, diabetes, and falls and fractures.
Vitamin D researchers today recommend vitamin D blood levels should be
maintained above 40-60 ng/ml. At least 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily in addition
to dietary sources and casual solar UV irradiance are required to maintain
those levels. According to peer-reviewed, published research, indoor tanners
have those levels, but non-tanners do not.
Indoor tanners: 42-49 ng/ml - American average: 23-25 ng/ml
In addition, two 2009 Swedish studies of indoor tanners showed a reduced risk of
endometrial cancer and thrombotic events. A recent study at Boston University
School of Medicine also found that blood levels of D3 were almost twice as high
in sunbed users as in non-users. Sunbed users' bone densities at the hip were
also significantly higher.
"There is conclusive evidence that indoor tanning in a non-burning fashion
offers a tremendous source of vitamin D," Grant says. "The benefit of regular
UV exposure as the body's only true natural source of sufficient vitamin D
production easily outweighs the manageable risks associated with overexposure
to sunlight," Grant says. "We know now through more than 2,000 papers published
in 2009 that smart UV exposure and increased vitamin D levels will not only
save lives, but also extend and increase our quality of life."
Dr. William Grant is a former NASA PhD and founder and current Director of
SUNARC (Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center). SUNARC,
www.sunarc.org, is devoted to research, education, and advocacy relating to the
prevention of chronic disease through changes in diet and lifestyle. Grant was
formerly a senior research scientist in the fields of optical and laser remote
sensing of the atmosphere and atmospheric sciences at SRI international, the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the NASA Langley Research Center. Grant is author
and coauthor of over 70 articles on ultraviolet irradiance and vitamin D and
100 articles on other topics in peer-reviewed journals and has contributed half
a dozen chapters to additional books. He was elected fellow of the Optical
Society of America in 1992. Dr. Grant is known for publishing the first paper
linking diet to Alzheimer's disease, presenting strong evidence that sweeteners
are an important risk factor for coronary heart disease for women, and
identifying the risk of vitamin D deficiency for ten internal cancers among
other ground-breaking research. Grant graduated with a Ph.D. in Physics from