Message About Indoor Tanning and Skin Cancer Is Not Getting Through continued...
The message that indoor tanning increases risk of skin cancer is getting lost, the study authors write.
As to why, they write, "perhaps people are confused by the messages from the indoor tanning industry on possible benefits of indoor tanning, e.g. getting vitamin D from moderate exposure to artificial UV radiation.” Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight.
Going forward, "strategies such as clinician-patient communication and media campaigns that focus on strategically disseminating the harms of indoor tanning to the adult population may be needed to reduce the prevalence of indoor tanning among adults in the United States," they conclude.
Heidi Waldorf, MD, director of dermatologic laser surgery at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, says “we have obviously been getting the message across about sun protection and the sun being a major cause of skin cancer and premature aging, but not indoor tanning.”
What will it take to really hammer home the message?
“It is going to take one of these younger women who has been tanning to come forward and say they have skin cancer,” Waldorf says.
Unless and until that occurs, word of mouth helps, she says.
“We have to keep chipping away and educate people, and every time we educate one person, they tell two people and then they tell two people,” she says.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
In a related letter in the same journal, Mary Kate Baker, MPH, of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., writes that many female tanners went tanning for the first time with their mothers.
Of those who went tanning with their mom for the first time, 81% still went tanning and 31.9% were heavy tanners, which is defined in this study as tanning more than 25 times per year.
People who tanned with their mother for the first time were nearly five times as likely to be heavy, current tanners as people who went tanning by themselves or with someone other than their mother for the first time.
“Interventions directed at mothers before the child initiates tanning have the potential to lead to reduced tanning in the mother and reduced tanning initiation and frequency in the child,” the authors conclude.
John Overstreet, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Indoor Tanning Association, an industry trade group, says the jury is still out on any potential hazards associated with indoor tanning.
“Individuals and groups who argue against exposure to UV light and/or sunbeds use would have the public believe there is scientific consensus about the risks,” he tells WebMD. “This is absolutely false."
There are many benefits to exposure to UV light, whether from the sun or a sunbed, he says.
“There are risks and benefits to tanning outdoors and indoors, but in moderation and based on skin type and predisposed risk factors, people can make a judgment for themselves.”