Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tanning Beds: Myth vs. Reality

The media typically focuses on skin cancer during the spring and has been intent in trying to persuade the avoidance of sunbeds. There have been reports that skin cancer is on the rise, occurring more and more in female teens and young adults and linked to sunbeds. Reports point out that although sunbeds are regulated by the FDA as a Class 1 medical device, so are Q tips. Reports claim that the World Health Organization classifies UV from sunbeds as a known carcinogen, the same as arsenic and mustard gas. Reports claim that sunbeds have addictive qualities similar to drugs. Many states seek to ban under 18 from tanning salons. Reports suggest that sunbeds are like tobacco and alcohol. Reports claim that the tanning industry is a growing multi-billion dollar business. Will avoiding sunbeds prevent skin cancer? As a parent trying to make an educated decision, is there any other information that can provide additional balance to make an informed decision? Here are 10 facts to consider: 1.) Although the National Cancer Institute's SEER report indicates about 77,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, the median age is 61 and mostly male. 2.) Are doctors finding more teen-age girls with skin cancer as a result of tanning indoor? What is seldom covered in this discussion is the latency for skin cancer--basically how long it takes to develop. Melanoma has a very long latency, sometimes 10 years or more and therefore highly unlikely that a teen began indoor tanning as a 3, 4, or 5 year old. Further, studies have not separated sunbed exposures from the lifetime history of exposure to natural sunlight. 3.)The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established classifications/) for approximately 1,700 different generic types of devices and grouped them into 16 medical specialties referred to as panels. Each of these generic types of devices is assigned to one of three regulatory classes based on the level of control necessary to assure the safety and effectiveness of the device. Sunbeds and sunlamps are Class 1 and yes, so are "Q-tips". Yet it's seldom pointed out that a nasopharyngeal catheter and other intricate devices are also listed as Class 1. 4.) In 2009, the World Health Organization listed sunbeds as a known carcinogen. Many media sources began to suggest that this now places sunbeds in the same category as arsenic and mustard. However, contraceptives and salted fish are also in this same category--yet again, infrequently pointed out. 5.) The public is made to believe that melanoma is rampant in the US. What is the absolute risk of melanoma? It's risk in the US is .03% In fact, there is an interactive tool designed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, San Francisco, to estimate a person's absolute risk of developing invasive melanoma. 6.) Is skin cancer really on the rise? Clearly more people than ever before are submitting to skin cancer screenings. In most cities, they are even provided free of charge. So, the question that begs asking; Is skin cancer incidence truly on the rise or have screening numbers increased and are dermatologists finding more as a result? 7.) Addictive qualities? Research supports that indoor tanning does produce the "feel good" hormone, endorphin. Dr. Alan Fleischer of Wake Forest study confirms it. Yes, people do claim to feel better after using a sunbed. Interestingly, long distance runners also produce endorphins but are seldom linked to drug users. 8.) Should sunbeds be banned from teens like alcohol and tobacco? Unlike alcohol and tobacco, UV from sunbeds is processed naturally in humans and actually creates a barrier-- an SPF between 2-4. 9.) Many states are seeking to ban indoor tanning by those under 18 as a preventative measure from skin cancer. However, no state has sought to regulate or ban sun exposure from the beaches, lakes, parks, ball fields and playgrounds where millions of young children (and many infants) are subjected to overexposure and sunburns. If UV is a known carcinogen, why are public officials not seeking to ban outdoor sun exposure? 10.) The tanning industry, like many other US businesses, has seen a drop in commerce. It's a seasonal business, largely affected by the weather. However, arguably the most drastic measures have been the 10% Federal tax on indoor tanning UV services and state regulations restricting usage. The answer to many problems in society are not more laws. In the end, it's about moderation and responsibility. Shouldn’t parents be provided non-biased information and make the decision for their own children, rather than governmental intervention?