Tanning Salon Truths

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. “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.
  6. 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 NJ Tanning Mom!
  7. 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!
  8. 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!




  • It is quite amazing that a MD with some responsibility to his patients, clients or the public readers of his ignorant information has bothered to really READ the background reports and the original IARC documentation that lead up to the Class 1 classification of tanning beds. If he had done so, he would have found out that things are really not that clear cut as he tries to make it in this article. In reality, the push-through of the decision in IARC, was a masterpiece of manipulative science paid for by the largest manufacturer of sun-screen cosmetics. Probably he is not very interested to get his narrow view on the world widened (people like him rarely are), but for everyone else, here are some view-widening information for you ... http://bit.ly/LN3BrO
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you for the link to "The Tanning Blog." Not certain why you felt the need to insult me. Does not seem to add to the discussion. The Tanning Blog gives an extensive breakdown of the other side of the conversation, with discussion of the tanning side of the argument I abstracted in my article. It pushes the health benefits of Vitamin D. As noted in my Blog there is no clear data showing that higher vitamin D levels acquired from tanning beds protect from disease. Certainly not in teenagers. The Tanning Blog indicates that melanoma is not really a significant problem. It does this by confusing a biopsy because of doctor's concern, with a diagnosis under the microscope. I did enjoy the piece in The Tanning Blog indicating that high Vitamin D levels produce faster sperm, which somehow equates to stronger children. I wonder if the children themselves run faster. Thanks for your feedback. jcs
  • cindy cedrone
    sounds to me like a doctor willing to loose his practice and livelyhood if it meant no more cancer versus someone elses opinion whom it sounds to me may have a financial stake in the tanning industry.Hmmm! easy to figure out who has the narrow minded view here,concern for the well being of others or concern for your bank account possibly?.
  • Jess
    Tanning DOES HELP with psoriasis. This coming from someone who RIPS thir skin off from the itch if I haven't gotten any sun for more than 4 days. So please, get your information right. Thank you.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      UV does help certain patients with psorasis. The problem is using non medical equipment to treat an illness greatly increases the risk of side effects, especially cancer (which is already increased in some patients with auto-immune diseases). In addition when a tanning salon practices medicine it is not able to offer alternatives, make diagnoses or detect complications. jcs

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