The London (Ontario) Free Press this weekend reported to its readers that suntanning is an addictive behavior like smoking or drinking and repeated many other misstatements regarding research about indoor tanning. Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy writes the following response:
This one-source article missed the point about sunlight and UV exposure and, perhaps most importantly, cheapens the legitimacy of concern over real issues involving addiction.
Humans are not addicted to UV exposure. We are ATTRACTED to UV exposure. It is entirely natural because most living things are supposed to get regular UV exposure to be healthy. That is nature’s design. To say anyone is addicted to UV is like saying they are addicted to air, food or water. We are naturally attracted to these things because we need them.
In fact, UV exposure meets none of the criteria for addiction set forth by agencies who deal with chemical dependency. It is an attraction — not an addiction.
Yet dermatology groups today are trying “spin” this story, doubling down on their anti-sun message because their message — daily chemical sunscreen usage in any climate, a message for which they are well-paid by chemical sunscreen manufacturers — has led to a 20 percent decrease in vitamin D blood levels in the past generation, according to the government’s own data. And vitamin D researchers know that 90 percent of Canadians and 77 percent of Americans do not get natural levels of “the sunshine vitamin.”
Those who suggest that humans should get vitamin D from pills and diet are the ones in denial. Consider: Humans make 100 times more vitamin D from sun exposure to the skin than they get from an 8-ounce glass of vitamin D fortified milk. And ‘D’ made from UV exposure to the skin lasts longer in the system and binds nearly twice as well to vitamin D-binding protein in the body (Dr. Michael Holick, Boston University).
Vitamin D researchers now suggest we need 40-60 ng/ml of vitamin D in our blood stream in order to realize all the potential benefits of vitamin D. (www.D-action.org, www.vitaminDcouncil.org). Independent research has shown that indoor tanners have this level. Non-tanners do not. (Tangpricha V et al, Tanning is Associated with Optimal Vitamin D Status, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
And an independent Canadian study showed that sunbed users have the highest vitamin D levels of any group in Canada.
In contrast, a recent Australian study showed that 87 percent of Australian dermatologists — who live in a sunny climate — are majorly deficient in vitamin D at the end of summer. (Czarnecki D. Vitamin D Status of Clinical Dermatologists, Clinical and Experimental Dermatology). According to that study, dermatologists average vitamin D blood level was just 13.8 ng/ml — bordering on severe deficiency.
All of which is to say that Mother Nature meant for us to get regular UV exposure and the vitamin D levels that are naturally attainable only through UV exposure and that food and diet are unnatural surrogates at best for ‘The Sunshine Vitamin.’ Getting a tan is a natural result of that intended behavior.
And because melanoma is more common in those who get the LEAST amount of regular UV exposure, our examination of the potential risks of UV deserves higher-level discussion than what pop-dermatology has engaged.
So why does UV exposure get such a bad rap? The reason: Sunshine is free — no one sells it to you. So why not jump on the bandwagon and oversimplify public health messages, throwing the baby out with the bath water. Here’s something I believe with all my heart: If a chemical company sold you your sunshine, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Keep in mind that billions of dollars are made by about a dozen pharmaceutical companies telling you to avoid the sun – much more than will ever be made by the thousands of small businesses who offer professional indoor tanning services.
Enjoy your sunshine — from any source — in intelligent moderation.