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SunSmart: Not So Smart?

Press Release: INTANZ
Wednesday 22nd October 2008

SunSmart: Not So Smart?

The Indoor Tanning Association NZ Inc (INTANZ) says it is “extremely keen” to work together with SunSmart and The Cancer Society to improve public health outcomes for skin cancer.

Responding to a fresh attack from the Chief of Surgery at Ascot Private Hospital, Professor James Shaw, INTANZ spokesperson Gabrielle Brown says this is another example of a missed opportunity. “Rather than seeing us as allies in this issue, the anti-tanning league has come out guns blazing again.”

Professor Shaw was quoted as saying that “no-one in New Zealand should be using a sunbed.” But INTANZ believe this persecution of their industry is unfair.

“You hear inflammatory statements and isolated statistics, but you don’t hear about the anomalies. For example, the 2007 IARC review, from which most of these damning statistics are quoted, found no association between sunbed use and basal cell carcinoma- the most common of all skin cancers. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that these conclusions are anything but clear.”

INTANZ also believe that Kiwis are at an alarming risk of vitamin D deficiency partly because of the Sunsmart message. A 2005 Cancer Society analysis of the National Nutrition Survey found that 56% of females and 47% of males were either vitamin D deficient or had insufficient vitamin D levels. “Ironically, ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’, along with the blanket recommendation to avoid sunbed use and the fear-mongering about the sun, skin cancer and skin aging over the last few decades has created a ‘Logic Gap’ for sun-loving Kiwis.

The Cancer Society has repeatedly amended their position statement on sun exposure, and now accepts the mounting weight of evidence that ultraviolet light-induced vitamin D is vital for human health. But this doesn’t mesh well with the SunSmart ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign, says Brown.

“Blocking all UV light from the skin- by use of shade, clothing, hats and sunscreen products- stops the body synthesizing vitamin D in response to exposure to UVB wavelength radiation. Professor Shaw is setting a dangerous precedent by recommending that people can make adequate vitamin D while following the existing ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ guidelines. We know from our new clients that there is already a high level of confusion among Kiwis about all the issues surrounding UV light and their skin. Furthering this confusion by a lack of explanation of the mechanism by which the body makes vitamin D is not in the interests of public health.”

INTANZ says the consequences of absolute sun avoidance are many, and of grave concern. Vitamin D synthesis is paramount- food or supplemental supply of vitamin D is less reliable than that from sunlight. The links between low vitamin D levels and chronic disease including breast, prostate and colon cancers are well documented. Additionally, people are at far greater risk of sunburn from excessive exposure to UV light if their skin is regularly shielded from it.

“Our clients overwhelmingly report success in slowing down burn time or avoiding sunburn altogether after completing a moderate course of indoor tanning prior to sunny vacations,” Brown says. “The ‘antis’ will tell you that tanning is skin damage, but the truth is just not that simple. Human beings have evolved under sunlight, and developed the ability to tan in order to protect ourselves. A huge factor in skin cancer and other chronic diseases is actually an inability to tan. By making an enemy of tanning, those on the other side of the debate may in fact be harming more than they help.”


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