Sunbed Industry Fights Back
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
25 August 2008
Sunbed Industry Fights Back
The New Zealand indoor tanning industry has responded sharply to research released by Otago University last week.
The study reviewed tanning services promoted in Yellow Pages advertisements over a fourteen-year period from 1992 to 2006.
INTANZ (Indoor Tanning Association New Zealand Inc) has labelled the study `misleading’, challenging the method used to draw conclusions about their industry. INTANZ identifies a number of confounding factors which render the study irrelevant, including the counting of advertisers offering only spray-tanning as opposed to UV tanning (a service which is not covered by the ‘Solaria for Cosmetic Purposes’ guideline that the industry follows) and the incidence of advertisers placing Yellow Pages ads in more than one category.
``The research is flimsy at best,’’ says INTANZ spokesperson Gabrielle Brown. ``It is yet another piece of skewed information perpetrated by the anti-tanning lobby with the intention of scaring the public away from our services.’’
The sunbed industry in this county is tiny, with wholesalers representing less than 3% of the beauty supply sector [i]. ``The odds have been stacked against us for some time,’’ says Brown, ``and particularly since the tragic Claire Oliver melanoma story broke last year.’’ The effect on sunbed service retailers following the 2007 expose on the ‘Sunday’ programme on TV1 last year was `swift and immediate’.
INTANZ claims that because the Otago study finished with the 2006 edition of the Yellow Pages, the public are being misled. In addition to the TV1 piece last year, a Consumer Magazine investigation found a number of tanning operators falling short of the guidelines in the voluntary 2002 Standard. Gabrielle Brown says, ``We’re all really struggling, so to read the stories that came out last week which seem to indicate there is some sort of burgeoning tanning underworld developing in this country, is just ludicrous.’’
``In a way the Consumer investigation was a good thing for the industry. It saw a number of ‘add-on’ operators who were not giving their tanning clients a fair deal remove their units.’’
INTANZ are now actively involved with a revision of the 2002 Standard. Their mission is to work towards self-regulation of the industry, raising the standard of indoor tanning across the board while protecting individual freedom to tan. Of extreme importance to them is also educating the public on `the other side of the UV debate’.
``Human beings need ultraviolet light for survival, and for health,’’ says Brown. ``The sun-scare mentality we are seeing now is dangerous, and irresponsible. Especially here in New Zealand where we have such a high level of UVB radiation in our sunshine, people need to be more aware of how to get the sunlight they need while staying protected. Absolute avoidance is not the way to go about it, and neither, in most cases, is 24/7 year-round SPF application. Certified indoor tanning salons will play a key role in helping Kiwis understand the complexities of ultraviolet light exposure.’’
So, what about melanoma? ``Indoor tanning facilities have been unfairly blamed for contributing to melanoma skin cancer for years now,’’ says Brown. INTANZ make the, perhaps surprising, claim that there is no causal connection between sunbed use and melanoma skin cancer. Between 1979 and 2002, 22 studies were conducted looking at the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and sunbed use. Of these, an amazing 18 showed no causal connection whatsoever. What’s more, say the indoor tanning community worldwide, the four studies that did show a connection have obvious confounding factors that aren’t accounted for. Indeed, one of the four was by a researcher who later conducted another study that found no link.
More recently one of the largest studies ever conducted was published online in February 2008, assessing over one thousand participants, and again concluding no link between sunbed use and melanoma [ii].
Gabrielle Brown explains, ``The fact is that the relationship between UV exposure and melanoma is complex and largely misunderstood. Prominent dermatologists now say that poorly informed public health agencies, along with pharmaceutical heavy-weights profiting enormously from the sale of anti-sun cosmetics and sun protection products, are to blame for perpetuating an unfounded myth about sunbed use and melanoma [iii]. Experts agree that heredity and skin type, and the individual’s ability to create a tan, are the clear major influencing factors for developing this form of skin cancer.’’
The INTANZ message is that moderate ultraviolet light exposure in a controlled indoor tanning facility, for those who can develop a tan, is a sensible way to maintain healthy vitamin D levels in the body, and to enjoy the benefits of UV exposure while limiting the risks.
[i] Source: Images Beauty Trade Guide Directory, 2008-2009 Edition.
[ii] Kerri M. Clough-Gorr et al, Exposure to sunlamps, tanning beds and melanoma risk, Cancer Causes and Control; Vol. 19, No. 7; 14 February 2008.
[iii] Dr. Bernard Ackerman, recipient of the 2004 Master Dermatologist Award from the American Academy of Dermatology, says in his book ‘The Sun and the Epidemic of Melanoma: Myth on Myth’: ``The American Academy of Dermatology, for decades, has kept up a drumbeat on behalf of faith in an epidemic of melanoma and rays of the sun as the major cause of it, at the same time that it has flayed, incessantly, the tanning bed industry. Although the organization is termed an Academy, never has it presented in fashion academic a whit of evidence, available readily, contrary to its position entrenched, namely, there is no epidemic of melanoma ... and that tanning beds have not been proven to be a cause direct of melanoma.’’