recent anti-tanning study

January 15, 2004

Dear Readers Digest:

In mid October, 2003 the media reports ignited across the US regarding a supposed new study on indoor tanning. A Prospective Study of Pigmentation, Sun Exposure, and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma in Women; Veierod, Weiderpass, Thorn, Hansson, Lund, Armstrong, Adami JNCI, Oct 2003 was recently released and published throughout many US media outlets. The media's attempt at interpreting this study is inaccurate, leading to false perceptions regarding the indoor tanning to the public. Why were the media reports of this study flawed?

The study analyzed 100,000 women from Norway and Sweden, 30-50 years of age, who completed a questionairre in 1991 and 1992.  Many of the subjects were fair haired, blue eyed and of Swedish origin.  During a follow up period of a slightly over 8 years, 187 cases of melanoma were diagnosed.  That equates to a miniscule .00187%, or about 2/100 of 1 %. 

Typically, Scandinavians are not likely to tan in the sun; generally they will suffer a reddening of the skin or sunburn.  Certain people are more predisposed to suffer from skin cancer.  If so, UV radiation (indoors or out) should be avoided.  It possible and very likely that those in the study have had numerous outdoor exposures in their lives, besides indoor tanning; intermittent exposures, tempting sunburn and potentially skin cancer, during the summer months.

What did the study conclude?

The study confirms what we already have known for years: Hair color, the amount and size of nevi (moles) and history of sunburn are risk factors for melanoma.  However, it suggests that the use of a solarium is also associated. "It is still too early to see the full effect of adult exposures...” The media took extreme liberties with the research in order to implicate the indoor tanning industry. In fact, it completely ignored research that melanoma mortality rates for women in their 20, 30's, 40's, and 50's (a prime indoor tanning demographic) have decreased during the previous 30 years.  As much of the indoor tanning industry noted, this information is old news.  SAE has been educating thousands of salon operators and their employees about the risk factors since 1986. Relying on a decade old study from Scandinavian countries, can not and should not be used as an indictment to those that tan indoors, according to skin type, in moderation and responsibly.

We would appreciate a more accurate depiction regarding indoor tanning in the future.

Joe Schuster
Media Liaison
Suntanning Association for Education