Do Tanning Beds Cause Cancer?
International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation
into the top cancer risk category, deeming both to be definite causes of
cancer. For years, scientists have described tanning beds and ultraviolet
radiation as "probable carcinogens." In 2009, an analysis of about 20 studies
concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using
tanning beds before age 30. According to the studies, using tanning beds caused
about a 20 percent increased relative risk of developing melanoma, the
deadliest kind of skin cancer.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola (mercola.com 08/09) Are Tanning Beds Really as Dangerous as Arsenic and Mustard Gas? :
The latest press release about ultraviolet radiation and tanning beds being
deemed "definite causes of cancer" was based on an IARC group meeting, NOT on a
new study. The issue of sunlight and vitamin D is becoming a hot topic, and new
studies and articles are appearing all the time. Michael F. Holick of the
Boston University School of Medicine stated: "The sun has been demonized for
years and as a result, people have avoided any direct exposure to sunlight. I
think that's the wrong message."
Dr. Mercola further offers advice on How to Critically Analyze News Stories That
Don't Make Any Sense: So let's get back to this study, and allow me to teach
you how to tear apart scary stories you read in the media that seem to be in
direct conflict with common sense.
First you want to look for some type of financial incentive. If you do that with
this story you will see it in spades. This type of negative press about tanning
has been occurring for a long time, especially every summer and winter.
Why summer? So the lotion manufactures, selling outdoor lotions with SPFs,
Sunless Bronzers, and Moisturizers with SPF can scare the heck out of the
public and cause them to be sun phobic, which encourages them to purchase and
use these products. Occasionally the financial bias will be in who funded the
study. I did not research that aspect in this story as there was a clear and
obvious link based on history. Bias of IARC investigators was evident from the
Next, you want to look for sources of bias in the research. Bias is a very
common error in writing and interpreting scientific studies. So I carefully
reviewed the original study that is referenced above, and discovered that their
recommendations were based on ONE study that was published two years ago. In
turn, this study based its conclusion on yet another study, published even
earlier. So when you go back to the ORIGINAL research, you discover what I did:
that they were basing their findings on a heavily biased report. Consider the
very first sentence of the "authoritative study" by the IARC (International
Agency for Research on Cancer) -- serving as the underlying premise for their
conclusion that tanning beds are dangerous: "Exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV)
radiation is a known cause of skin cancer."
It is quite clear that these scientists began their literature review with the
belief that sunlight is a well-established source of cancer, and that you
should avoid sunlight if you want to decrease your skin cancer risk. This is as
glaring an example of researcher bias as I have ever seen. The group obviously
bought into this commonly held but false belief about ultraviolet radiation
that has been circulated for decades, instead of looking at data that was
outside of their own bias.
What's Left Out is as Important as What's Left In
Many times what is not mentioned is even more important that what is -- and that
is certainly the case here. This investigative group cited studies documenting
how UVB can damage DNA. However, they failed to EVER mention how UVB exposure
is HEALTHY by stimulating the production of vitamin D, which regulates 2-3,000
genes and decreases cancers overall by 50-60 percent.
So, while it is true that excessive UVB exposure will increase the risk of skin
cancer and result in some loss of lives, it is even more relevant for health
and longevity to understand that inappropriate avoidance of the sun will result
in depressed vitamin D levels, which will result in far more deaths.
Studies show that, for every person who dies of skin cancer from UVB
overexposure, more than two hundred will die from other cancers, like lung,
breast, prostate and colon, as a result of low vitamin D levels. Moderate
exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the only way to prompt your body to
manufacture the vitamin D it needs to keep you healthy. We all have to accept
some risk in life. Just driving to work or the grocery store you might get
killed by some nitwit who is texting. Yet you accept that risk because using
your car offers a greater benefit to you. Same with sun exposure, there is
clearly some risk, but it is incomprehensibly low compared to the benefits you
This scientific group also neglected to mention that pre-existing studies do not
take into consideration skin type, history of sun exposure, genetic or
nutritional factors. According to Doug McNabb, the head of a Canadian tanning
bed company: "If you're to take skin type 1 and 2 out of the equation, those
being people with red hair and blue eyes and then reddish brown and brown eyes
-- if you take those out of the data -- the number pretty much goes to zero in
terms of the risk of a tanning bed as a carcinogen."
It is abundantly clear and obvious to me that if everyone exercised prudent
judgment about their sun and tanning bed exposure, and had plenty of
antioxidants from vegetables, fruits and/or supplements, they could virtually
eliminate their risk of skin cancer.
Interestingly, the primary study being used to support the conclusion that
tanning beds are "as dangerous as arsenic" states the following: "No
epidemiological study has been able to explore in a rigorous way amounts of UVA
and UVB received by indoor tanning users." So, even though some studies have
been done, NOT ONE rigorous scientific study supports their statement. The ONLY
conclusion they could reach was that use of indoor tanning devices was
associated with increased risk of melanoma in those who began using the devices
before age 30.
Tanning Beds are Not the Culprits Here
Even though there is clearly NO SUPPORT or justification for the sensationalist
report that prompted this response, there are some concerns with tanning beds,
which will be expanded upon in the next few sections:
1. The first issue is the dose of UV you're getting from your tanning bed, which
the IARC researchers do attempt to address.
2. The second issue is EMF exposure, of which the researchers are most likely
ignorant because they fail to mention it entirely.
Dosing: Too Much of a Good Thing is Still Too Much As for UV dosing, you don't
want to exceed the level of exposure that you would typically receive from
natural sunshine. Vitamin D is optimized when your skin has just turned the
slightest bit pink. Optimal UV exposure varies with skin color, location and
time of year.
Tanning is your body's natural protection against sunburn; it's what your body
was created to do. Some physicians falsely refer to tanning as "skin damage,"
but calling a tan "damage" isn't telling the whole story.
In an apt analogy used by the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA), calling a tan
"damaged skin" is much like saying that exercise "damages muscles." When you
exercise, you are actually tearing tiny muscle fibers in your body. At first
glance, when examined at the micro-level, this tearing could be called
"damage." But this tissue breakdown is your body's natural way of building
stronger muscle tissue. Similarly, tanning is your skin's natural way of
protecting you from the dangers of sunburn and further exposure. So, be it from
the sun or from an indoor tanning device, avoiding sunburn is crucial. It is
the burning of your skin and chronic excessive exposures -- not the limited,
sensible exposure to ultraviolet light or sunlight -- that increases your risk
for skin cancer.
Dispelling Myths About Melanoma
Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, accounts for less than 5
percent of the newly diagnosed skin cancers each year. It is now known that
melanomas are not simply caused by too much UV.
Melanoma does not fit the mold of other skin cancers for the following reasons:
• Melanoma is more common in people who work indoors than in those who work
• Melanoma most commonly appears on parts of your body that do not receive
regular exposure to sunlight&emdash;and rarely occurs on your face.
Because people who receive regular exposure to outdoor sunlight get fewer
melanomas, it makes no sense to say that ultraviolet light causes melanoma.
Some studies suggest that the key risk factor for melanoma is an individual's
genetic susceptibility to sunburn itself, not the actual incidence of sunburn.
Furthermore, to date, no well-designed studies support the connection between
melanoma and UV exposure from tanning beds. This fact is significant,
considering most of the studies did not account for confounding variables such
as outdoor exposure to sunlight, childhood sunburns, the type of tanning
equipment used, and the duration and quantity of exposures.
Who's Behind This Public Deception?
The negative press about sun exposure and tanning is more than simple ignorance
or lack of education on the part of government agencies and scientists. The
truth is out there to be found, for those who want to find it. It again boils
down to blatant greed. Multi-million-dollar corporations enjoy enormous profits
from the products they sell to allay your fears. They create the fear so that
they can sell you their solution:
• Suntan lotions and creams • Sunless bronzers • Moisturizers with SPF
• Sun-protective clothing • Anti-aging skin care
Think about how the ads for these products abound in winter and early spring
when people worldwide flock to sunny climates for long-awaited vacations. This
is the peak season for indoor tanning as well, and the market forces take full
advantage. Consider the money to be made in a pairing between suntan lotion
manufacturers and the travel industry&emdash;airlines, cruise lines, and the like. What about the automobile industry
-- what vehicle today doesn't come with a sunroof? The average American spends
10 percent of his life in a car -- so by the time you are 40, you've spent 4
years of your life behind car windows, selectively soaking up that UVA.
Big Industry knows you will never give up your sunshine, and they've learned how
to capitalize on it by creating a "sun-phobia" -- with a lot of help from Big
Pharma and the AMA. It's all about the money. Government agencies and big
corporations will continue to grossly overstate the risks of sunlight, while
ignoring evidence of its benefits. Please avoid these scare tactics so you and
your family won't be deceived or manipulated anymore.