The great Tanning Bed debate continues.. are they safe or are they as bad for you as smoking?
Just when you thought you heard the final verdict on how safe tanning beds are, the $4.9 billion industry fights back and defends itself saying that tanning is a good source of vitamin D and that doctors and other health authorities are the true villains.
A doctor in a white lab coat stands at the pearly gates. The voice of God booms, “And your good deeds?” The man responds, “Well, as a dermatologist, I’ve been warning people that sunlight will kill them and that it is as deadly as smoking.”
His smug smile fades as God snaps, “You’re saying that sunlight, which I created to keep you alive, give you vitamin D and make you feel good, is deadly? And the millions of dollars you received from chemical sunscreen companies had nothing do with your blasphemy?”
A bottle of SPF 1000 sunscreen materializes in the dermatologist’s hand. “You’ll need that where you’re going,” God says.
The above section is part of a training video for tanning salon employees made by the International Smart Tan Network attempting to poke fun at, and counter, the broad consensus that medical authorities believe sunbeds increase the risk of skin cancer (including melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancers). Their biggest tactic? To follow the move that the big tobacco companies have been playing for years.. attempt to undermine all the scientific research that has been collected proving massive health risks. The tanning bed industry claims it’s all part of a profit-driven conspiracy headed by the “Sun Scare Industry,” which is comprised of dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers, and charities such as the American Cancer Society.
“The Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people,” Joseph Levy, executive director of Smart Tan
But while tanning bed industry professionals cry of unfair press and the greed of sunscreen companies, indoor tanning brings in over $4.9 billion a year.
Undercover investigators called 300 tanning salons across the U.S. asking various questions and found that 90% of them claimed that tanning did not pose a health risk. Even more scary is that 51% of them denied that sunbeds can increase your cancer risk. The Industry groups defense: The questions were phrased in a leading way and that the investigators would have been more fully informed of any possible risks has they visited the salons in person opposed to over the phone.
- There are as many tanning bed salons in the U.S. as McDonald’s restaurants
- The US Public Health Service states that UV radiation, including the use of sun lamps and sun beds are “known to be a human carcinogen.”
- In 2009 the International Agency for Research on Cancer declares UV-emitting tanning devices carcinogenic
- In 2009 Associated Press article stated, “International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming them as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas.”
- California and Vermont prohibit youth under 18 from tanning indoors
- New York bans youth under 17 from tanning indoors
- In 2010 the tanning association is banned from making misleading statements or unfounded health claims (such as UV light is a good source of disease-fighting vitamin D)
A quick searching using Google regarding the health benefits or risks of using tanning beds provides endless amounts of information (or misinformation). Wikipedia describes the risks as:
“Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer, advance skin aging and wrinkling, mutate DNA, and reduce immune system response. Frequent tanning bed use triples the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Children and adolescents who use tanning beds are at greater risk because of biological vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation.”