Talking up tanning: Indoor Tanning Association sparks dermatologists' response

June 1, 2008

National report - A pro-tanning campaign backed by the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) has raised objections from dermatologists and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Key Points

National report - A pro-tanning campaign launched by the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) has raised objections from dermatologists and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

The media blitz began with a full-page ad in the New York Times, a TV commercial airing in major U.S. markets and two new Web sites, http://www.trusttanning.com/ and http://www.sunlightscam.com/.

Melanoma link disputed

In 22 studies that have examined whether indoor tanning causes melanoma, she says, 18 found no link (International Agency for Research on Cancer/IARC Working Group on Risk of Skin Cancer and Exposure to Artificial Ultraviolet Light. 2005: Lyon, France).

"The other studies, which do not control for variables, like how much time indoor tanners spend tanning outdoors, found only the slightest statistically significant link," Ms. Longwell tells Dermatology Times.

One prominent dermatologist agrees with that assessment.

"There's no proof that the sun - outside the setting of xeroderma pigmentosum - causes melanoma," says A. Bernard Ackerman, M.D., director emeritus, Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology, New York.

Accordingly, he says, "Part of Smart Tan's message is helping people to avoid sunburn. We believe we do that more effectively than those who teach sun abstinence."

But many dermatologists cite research that contradicts the ITA's position.

Martin A. Weinstock, M.D., counters, "The IARC concluded in 1992 that UV radiation from the sun was a cause of melanoma. And nothing has contradicted this conclusion since then."

Dr. Weinstock is professor of dermatology and community health, Brown University, and chief of dermatology at the Providence, R.I., VA Medical Center.