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 ( 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 start.

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 receive.

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 outdoors.

• 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.

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Tanning & Natural Health News is a publication of Tan Plus /Essentials Of Life, Barclay Square, 350 Route 108, Somersworth, NH. This publication is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be presented as medical advice. Product statements made have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

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