The effort in New Jersey to ban the use of tanning salons by anyone younger than 18 was heard last week in the New Jersey Senate Health Committee. I had the opportunity to attend that confrontational session and was appalled by the misstatements and lies from advocates of the tanning industry. In the interest of saving all our skins, it is worth reviewing these dangerous distortions. By the way, local Senator Barbara Buono is a strong advocate of the ban and deserves our support.
- The tanning salon lobbyists agreed that tanning beds are classified as a Class 1 carcinogen (definitely causes cancer in man). Nevertheless, they said, “That is not as bad as cigarettes.” WRONG!!! That is the same as cigarettes, which are also a Class 1 Carcinogen, as are benzene, asbestos and plutonium! It is not a coincidence that tanning beds look like candescent coffins.
- There is “nothing special” about the high school years regarding the risk of using tanning beds. WRONG!!! A recent Journal of Clinical Oncology article (May, 2012) finds it is the most dangerous time of life to use a tanning bed and it only takes four times a year to get cancer! Many tanners get melanoma by the time they are 30.
- Teenage tanning is a “small part of their business… only 6%.” WRONG!!! Teenage tanning is 20% of their business (ASCO). No wonder they flew in consultants from all over the USA to fight the ban.
- Tanning beds are “safer than sunlight” because they do not burn. WRONG!!! First, you do not get cancer from sunburns, you get it from tanning. Second, tanning beds radiate cancer causing UVA up to 15 times faster than midday sunlight. When you tan it means you have DNA damage. DNA damage leads to cancer! There are no healthy tans!
- "Tanning beds stimulate Vitamin D which prevents disease." WRONG!!! Oh so very WRONG!!! First, because tanning beds have less UVB than natural sunlight, they are an inferior source of Vitamin D. Second, no one has proven that increased Vitamin D from either sunlight, tanning beds or pills prevents disease. We believe extra Vitamin D is good for bones. However, there is deep skepticism in medicine about the benefit of Vitamin D supplementation for other medical conditions. Finally, there is no research about replacing Vitamin D in teenagers to prevent adult disease.
- Tanning makes you feel good because it raises serotonin levels. UNPROVEN AND INCOMPLETE!!! There is no proof that tanning leads to long-term psychiatric benefit. On the other hand, tanning may raise endorphins and therefore it may be addictive. Ask the !
- Tanning salons “treat diseases like psoriasis and acne.” I am afraid that this might not be wrong. I really hope that people with serious medical conditions are not going to tanning salons for help. It is horrible to trade acne for cancer. Please see a doctor!
- Supporters of the tanning industry emphasized that the bill threatened small businesses during a difficult economic time. This ignores the massive cost in human suffering from skin cancer. Not only does it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat each patient, but the loss of potential income by dying young is devastating to families. As an Oncologist, I would be thrilled to see our Legislature pass bills that decrease the number of patients I treat.
As of this writing, the tanning ban bill had passed the NJ Assembly but was seriously damaged by the Senate Health Committee. Take a moment and email Senator Joe Vitale or Senator Barbara Buono. Tell them to save our children. Tanning Salons for any one less than 18 are the biggest cause of cancer in young adults and should be completely banned!
As published in Sunrise Rounds.
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