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“Sun Scare”: How Commercialism Has Twisted Proper Sun Care

What is the International Smart Tan Network?

The Fundamentals About Tanning

Why Indoor Tanning Is "Smart Tanning"

How Do You Define Moderate Tanning?

How Do Indoor Tanning Facilities Teach Sunburn Prevention?

Smart Tanning Means Understanding Benefits and Risks


“Sun Scare”: How Commercialism Has Twisted Proper Sun Care

Scaring people out of the sun is a multibillion-dollar business. Smart Tan coined the term “sun scare” in 1996 to properly identify those who were distorting the truth about sunshine’s complex relationship with human health in order to scare you out of the sun. Some “sun scare” groups profit by marketing a distorted sun abstinence message, while others simply tell you to avoid any and all sun exposure because they don’t trust you to make your own informed decision about proper sun care:

  1. Cosmetic Corporations – These giant “cosmeceutical” firms are driven by multibillion-dollar profits and are the leading purveyors of “sun scare.” These sunscreen manufacturers are marketing their products to block any and all UV exposure rather than simply for sunburn prevention. Sunscreen companies are enjoying record profits right now. For instance:
  • $9 billion pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough (Coppertone) reported sun-care related sales of $204 million in 2005, up 16 percent from 2004 and up 40 percent from 2003, making the division one of Schering-Plough’s best performers by percentage growth.
  • $50 billion Johnson & Johnson’s consumer products unit – which markets sun care products like Neutrogena and Aveeno, is one of the pharmaceutical giant’s most profitable divisions, with increased sales of $2.36 billion in the first quarter of 2006 alone. Neutrogena’s marketing uses some of the most aggressive sun-scare tactics of any sunscreen company. In marketing its “Age Shield” SPF 45 product, Neutrogena warns people, “As part of your daily skin care regimen, Neutrogena recommends Healthy Defense SPF30 Daily Moisturizer to combat damage from daily sun exposure.” 
  • Beauty magazines – Chock full of cosmetic advertising, the average North American beauty magazine contains 21 pages of anti-sun-related advertising in every issue. That’s an estimated $1 million a month in revenue for many beauty magazines, which explains why their editorial message is so heavily slanted against sunshine.

     

  • One prominent example of how advertising affects beauty magazine coverage of this issue: Cosmopolitan magazine sold sponsorship of a cover feature on sun care to Neutrogena in May 2006. The package of stories – as beauty magazines often do – featured and recommended usage of Neutrogena products. Further, Cosmo Editor Kate White personally trumpeted the message of her advertiser on a publicity tour that included a prominent interview on NBC’s The Today Show in April. Neutrogena products were featured on that appearance as well. In essence, Cosmopolitan has compromised its editorial integrity and has officially become a paid lobbyist for the cosmeceutical industry, which markets its product based on all-out fear and denial of the benefits naturally derived from sunlight.
  • Skin Care Lobbying Groups – The American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the National Sun Safety Alliance all are prime examples of groups that the public perceives to be independent and altruistic, but which have strong ties to the pharmaceutical manufacturers of sunscreen products. This is one reason why most of these groups still recommend daily usage of sunscreen 365 days a year for people in all climates despite the fact that such a regimen clearly promotes over-use of sunscreen and may be contributing to the epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency in North America today.

Some purveyors of “sun scare” have deluded themselves into thinking that it is acceptable to overstate the risks associated with overexposure in order to convince people to moderate their sun exposure habits. This segment of the anti-tanning “sun scare” lobby, in an effort to rightfully increase awareness about sun care, often says the wrong thing the wrong way for the right reasons. But the fact that the intention – to reduce skin damage – is right does not give them a free pass to obscure the facts and ignore conflicting data, as they often do. For example:

  • Some dermatology industry leaders still maintain that there are no known health benefits to regular sun exposure. This position is totally non-defendable. There is plenty of well-researched material documenting the positive physiological and psychological effects of UV exposure. They are in full denial.
  • “People who practice proper sun protection and are concerned that they are not getting enough vitamin D should either take a multivitamin or drink a few glasses of vitamin D fortified milk every day. ..Dietary intake of vitamin D can completely and easily fulfill our needs.” – Dr. Raymond L. Cornelison Jr., then-president of the American Academy of Dermatology, in a July 3, 2003 AAD press release entitled, “Vitamin D + Sunshine = Bad Medicine.” This isn’t true – sunshine is the body’s natural way to make vitamin D, and the vitamin D community has agreed that one cannot reliably make vitamin D through dietary supplementation alone.
  • Some dermatology industry leaders, in efforts to increase awareness about sun care, have clearly overstated the risks associated with UV exposure. For example, dermatology industry leaders have gone on record advocating daily use of sunscreen 365 days a year in all climates. This is clearly misbranding the product in seasons and climates where sunburn is not a possibility. Further, this over-use of sunscreen completely prevents the body from naturally manufacturing vitamin D. And vitamin D deficiency in our society appears to be epidemic.
  • “Overwhelming evidence links the development of most skin cancers to exposure of skin to ultraviolet radiation contained in sunlight. (Vitamin D Scientists Dr. Michael) Holick hints that judicious daily exposures might be safe. However, I believe that every photon hitting the skin could produce a photo-mutation leading to skin cancer.” - Dr. Mark V. Dahl, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology in a 2003 editorial criticizing Holick's work published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Dahl’s comment that any bit of sun exposure could lead to skin cancer is akin to saying that any car trip is dangerous and therefore people should not drive a car – it’s not the most accurate way to portray the relationship.
  • Some dermatology industry leaders, in attempts to scare people out of the sun, still compare tanning to smoking, making the statement that indoor tanning is like a cigarette for your skin. This hyperbole is nothing short of ridiculous:
  • Smoking introduces unnatural substances into your body that your body is not designed to process. In contrast, your body is designed to process UV light, and in fact is reliant on UV exposure for natural body functions.
  • Smoking is related to 20 percent of all deaths in the United States and 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • Lung cancer rates are 22 times higher for current male smokers and 12 times higher for current female smokers as compared to non-smokers. In contrast, there are no studies showing that tanning in a non-burning fashion is related to any increase in skin cancer risk. This is critical, because we believe that burning, not moderate tanning, is the significant UV-related risk factor.
  • 18 of 22 studies ever conducted on indoor tanning and melanoma have shown no connection at all, including the most recent and largest study on the topic. The four older studies that have alleged small increases in risk have all contained unexplained statistical anomalies, such as failing to control for confounding variables such as outdoor sun exposure. In some studies, frequent tanners had lower risk as compared to non-tanners, which also is unexplained.

The public and the press look up to medical professionals as objective sources of public health information. But when dermatology industry lobbyists obscure the facts and distort the picture to attempt to influence health policy, that creates an abrogation of trust that is unfortunate for all parties involved, and the consumer suffers.

Sun Scare: Calling Any UV Exposure a ‘Carcinogen’

The U.S. federal government in 2000 included ultraviolet light on its list of known human carcinogens – a document it produces bi-annually to warn people about dangerous chemicals and exposure circumstances. In doing so, ultraviolet light became the first item on that list that humans also need in order to live and would die if they didn’t receive. That is nothing less than confusing. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you have heard about this listing:

  • The criteria to be on the list does not take into consideration the dosage required for a substance to be harmful. That is the problem. According to the listing criteria: “The Report does not present quantitative assessments of carcinogenic risk. Listing of substances in the Report, therefore, does not establish that such substances present carcinogenic risks to individuals in their daily lives.” In other words, the criteria to be on the U.S. government’s list of carcinogens does not differentiate between sunburn and normal daily UV exposure. Purveyors of sun scare conveniently have neglected to disclose this shortfall. This exclusion makes this listing meaningless.
  • This report means nothing more than this: Repeated sunburn and overexposure may increase your risk of skin cancer. The list does not mean that moderate tanning in an non-burning fashion will cause skin cancer. That’s because there is no research in existence to demonstrate that tanning without burning is a significant risk factor for anything.
  • Sunburn and overexposure are exactly what we are trying to prevent by teaching moderation and sunburn prevention.
  • The list does not take into account that there are positive effects of regular ultraviolet light exposure. One thing we know for certain: You would be dead today if you did not receive any ultraviolet light.

 

© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network

What is the International Smart Tan Network?

Dedicated to educating indoor tanning professionals and the millions of customers they serve, the International Smart Tan Network is a synergetic worldwide consortium committed to researching and promoting the responsible, life-long skin-care regimen of moderate suntanning for individuals who can develop a tan and sunburn avoidance for all.

Redefining the standards of professionalism in the indoor tanning salon industry, Smart Tan and its members are committed to the following objectives:

Objectives

  1. Teaching millions of tanners worldwide how to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.
  2. Encouraging both tanners and non-tanners to examine the scientific research supporting the benefits associated with sun exposure, while at the same time respecting the potential risks.
  3. Supplying indoor tanning professionals with new and unparalleled educational opportunities to further their understanding of ultraviolet light and the tanning process.
  4. Raising consumer expectations of what constitutes a professional indoor tanning facility.
  5. Funding new scientific research on the positive effects of ultraviolet light and promoting this emerging field of evidence in its proper context.

The Smart Tan Creed
Moderate tanning - for those individuals who can develop a tan - is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.

The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning

Don't ever sunburn.
 
© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network


The Fundamentals About Tanning

Moderate tanning, for individuals who can develop a tan, is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.

This position is founded on the following tenets:

  1. The professional indoor tanning industry promotes and teaches what we refer to as The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning: Don't ever sunburn.
  2. The indoor tanning industry has been more effective at teaching sunburn prevention than those who promote complete sun avoidance. Non-tanners sunburn more often than people who tan indoors.
  3. An estimated 30 million North Americans patronize indoor tanning facilities at some point during the year. Every year, millions of indoor tanners successfully develop "base tans" before embarking on sunny vacations - tans that, combined with the proper use of sunscreen outdoors, help them prevent sunburn.
  4. Public debate on this issue has completely lost the perspective that there are known physiological and psychological benefits associated with sunlight, that there are many other potential benefits that need further research, that the risks are manageable for anyone who has the ability to develop a tan and that, for many people, the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks associated with overexposure.
  5. A tan is the body's natural protection against sunburn. Your skin is designed to tan as a natural body function, and the body is designed to repair sun damage as a natural process.
  6. The professional indoor tanning salon industry is part of the solution in the ongoing battle against sunburn and in teaching people how to identify a proper and practical life-long skin care regimen.

 © 2006 the International Smart Tan Network 


Why Indoor Tanning Is "Smart Tanning"

 Indoor tanning, for individuals who can tan, is an intelligent way to minimize the risk of contracting sunburn while maximizing the enjoyment and benefit of having a tan. Again, we call this SMART TANNING because tanners are taught by trained tanning facility personnel how their skin type reacts to sunlight and how to avoid sunburn outdoors, as well as in a salon.

Tanning in a professional facility today minimizes risk because commercial tanning salons in the United States and in most Canadian provinces are regulated by the government. In the United States, exposure times for every tanning session are established by a schedule present on every piece of equipment that takes into account the tanner's skin type and the intensity of the equipment to deliver a dosage of sunlight designed to minimize the risk of sunburn. The schedule, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, also takes into account how long an individual has been tanning, increasing exposure times gradually to minimize the possibility of burning.

That kind of control is impossible outdoors, where variables including seasonality, time of day, weather conditions, reflective surfaces and altitude all make outdoor tanning a random act and sunburn prevention more difficult.

© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network


How Do You Define Moderate Tanning?

The term "moderate tanning" means something different for every different individual, and that is an important point. The bottom line - what we call "The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning" - is simple: Don't EVER sunburn. A fair-skinned, red-headed, green-eyed person may not have the ability to develop a tan without sunburning. This person should not attempt to tan then. On the other hand, most of us have the ability to develop a tan, and the majority of us tan very easily. Moderation, in our view, means avoiding sunburn at all costs. Going about that agenda will mean something different to every different person.

© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network


How Do Indoor Tanning Facilities Teach Sunburn Prevention?

The indoor tanning industry is at the forefront in educating people how to successfully avoid sunburn over the course of one's life. In fact, studies of indoor tanners have shown consistently that indoor tanning customers, once they begin tanning in a professional salon, are up to 81 percent less likely to sunburn than they were before they started tanning.

Consider that sunburn incidence in the general population has been steadily increasing. Sunburn increased 9 percent from 1986-1996, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), and the sub-group most likely to burn was older men.

We believe that teaching people strictly to avoid the sun may be making them more likely to sunburn when they do go outside for summer activities - and everyone does go outdoors at some point. Consider:

  1. Tanning is your body's natural defense mechanism against sunburn, and indoor tanners have activated this defense against burning; non-tanners are more vulnerable when they inevitably do go outdoors.
  2. Indoor tanners are educated at professional tanning facilities how to avoid sunburn outdoors, how to use sunscreens appropriately and how to properly moisturize their skin.

When you also consider that the majority of people who sunburn are male, according to the AAD, and that 65-70 percent of indoor tanning customers are female, clearly, it is non-tanners who are doing most of the burning outdoors. In the war against sunburn, tanning salons are part of the solution. Those who abstain from sun exposure completely are more likely to sunburn when they inevitably do go outdoors, even if they attempt to wear sunscreen.

© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network


Smart Tanning Means Understanding Benefits and Risks

The professional indoor tanning industry promotes responsible indoor tanning and sunburn prevention as "smart." We choose not to use the word "safe." Here is why:

The word "safe" implies that one can recklessly abuse something without any fear of causing harm. And reckless abandon certainly is not the behavior the professional indoor tanning industry is teaching. In fact, we are playing a key role in successfully preventing that kind of reckless abuse. By teaching a "smart" approach to sunburn prevention that recognizes that people do perceive different benefits from being in the sun, we are able to teach sunburn prevention in a practical way that respects both the potential benefits and the risks of sun exposure.

For example, previous generations believed that sunburn was an inconvenient but necessary precursor to developing a tan. Today we know better, and we are teaching a new generation of tanners how to avoid sunburn at all costs. Again, our position: Moderate tanning is the best way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks of either too much or too little exposure.

These graphs illustrate our point. The top graph shows the conventional thinking about sunlight: that totally eliminating sun exposure eliminates risks. That oversimplification is why the $30 billion sun-care industry tells us to wear sunscreen 365 days a year, no matter where we live. But the bottom graph is a more accurate, albeit more complicated, description of the risk function. The one thing we do know for certain about sunlight is that zero exposure does NOT equal zero risk; in fact, the risks of zero exposure would be deadly. So the risk function must be curved. The vertex of that curve - where risk is minimized - is different for every person and cannot be randomly defined. What's more, this graph does not even take into account the balance between benefits and risks. That has to be part of the equation if any campaign is going to be effective.

Human life is totally reliant on sun exposure, and the life-giving effects of ultraviolet light. The question for each of us - a question that nobody knows the exact answer to - is how much sun exposure is appropriate, and how much is too much. Basing the answer to that question on the belief that any exposure increases one's risk of skin damage - a belief that is not categorically supported in the medical literature -fails to recognize the positive influence ultraviolet light and sunlight have on our lives.

New research on breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and other deadly diseases - research that shows that regular sun exposure may play a key part in preventing the onset or retarding the growth of these deadly diseases - supports the position that moderate sun exposure, for those of us who can develop a tan, is the best way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks of either too much or too little exposure.

© 2006 the International Smart Tan Network


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