Teen tanning by Marc Sorenson, EdD….
“There are lies, damn lies and statistics,” or so the saying goes. Karen Selick, of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, some time ago penned a press release entitled: Don’t outlaw teen tanning. I was fortunate that a friend thought I’d be interested. He sent me the release, even though the release was published in 2013.
Selick’s discussion gives an excellent explanation of how the twisting of statistics may lead to a total misinterpretation of the truth. She discusses the fact that anti-tanning advocates consistently state that using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 results in a 75% increase in the risk of developing melanoma. That does sound frightening, but when the figures are looked at more closely, she explains that the actual risk of young people contracting melanoma is almost negligible.
Her reasoning is brilliant. She consulted the Statistics Canada Causes of Death database, and demonstrates that in the decade from 2000 to 2009, the last decade from which statistics for teens were available, 5 Canadians 19 years of age or younger died from melanoma. In other words about a half-person per year.
She also points out that among teens during that same decade, there were 195 deaths from falls, 627 deaths from drowning and 6,972 from “transport accidents.”
To draw an analogy, Ms. Selick states the following: “……….. suppose that only one person in Canada were to be murdered in 2014. If two people were murdered in 2015, that would constitute a shocking 100 percent increase in the murder rate — but it would still be only two people, an extraordinarily low murder rate for a country of 34 million people.”
Another observation from the press release was a comparison of the risk of heart disease in Scotland, where sunlight is scarce, with Australia, where sunlight is abundant. The Australians have a one-third reduced risk of death rates from heart attacks. Ms. Selick’s release states that “Those who would ban teen tanning focus so intently on skin cancer that they seem completely oblivious to the health benefits that sun exposure (real or simulated) can confer.”
I have mentioned in this blog that there are 324 lives lost from diseases that are associated with sun deficiency for every life lost to diseases associated with sun exposure, and since sunbeds produce the same type of light as sun exposure, it is not surprising that sunbeds have healthful effects.
We also now have research that demonstrates that over 20 years, women who use sunbeds have a 23% reduced risk of all-cause death.
Dr. Richard Weller, a dermatologist and the author of many pro-sun research studies, often discusses the beneficial effect of nitric oxide, a photoproduct of sun and sunbed exposure. He makes a compelling case that nitric oxide dramatically reduces the risk of hypertension and heart disease. Here is one of his statements:
“The prevalence of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular deaths is around 100 times higher than those from skin cancer. Interventions leading to small changes in the incidence of cardiovascular disease are thus of greater benefit to the health of the public even than large changes in skin-cancer incidence.”
I am not here to suggest that you use a sunbed. That is up to you. I have my own sunbed and enjoy it without the least worry. Just be sure that when you use a sunbed or engage in sunbathing, do it safely without burning.
 Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Nielsen K, Stenbeck M, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86.
 Weller R. The health benefits of UV radiation exposure through vitamin D production or non-vitamin D
Pathways. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C6PP00336B.