Salon Group Targets Tanning 'Myths'

PHOTO: American Suntanning Association (ASA) wants to dispel myths and misinformation about tanning beds.

A new association representing owners of suntanning salons says it wants to dispel myths and misinformation about moderate exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, much of which it says is perpetuated by healthcare providers.

The American Suntanning Association (ASA), which announced its formation on Dec. 18, has 1,400 members representing owners of 14,000 sunbed salons in the U.S. The membership's primary concern centers on what the group says is flawed research that has misled the public about the benefits of moderate UV exposure.

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Widely cited studies have included home-based tanning beds and cosmetic and medical use of UV treatment, "which often involves intentional sunburn -- sometimes even blistering sunburn," according to a statement from the ASA. After removing those patients from analyses, "the risk connected to professional salons virtually disappears."

"One of the primary roles of the ASA is to address and factually dispel these myths and educate the public about intelligent, practical sun care for tanners and nontanners," ASA board member Diane Lucas, president of a national tanning salon chain based in Dallas, said in the statement.

As it corrects misinformation about sunlight and sunbeds, the ASA intends to raise standards for tanning salons.

"It is time to have a higher-level discussion about UV light from the sun and from sunbeds," said ASA board president Bart Bonn, owner of an Omaha, Neb.-based group of tanning salons. "The ASA is going to be a constructive party in that discussion, demanding a consumer-first conversation differentiating proper sun care from blatant overstatements about the risks of UV exposure."

If the ASA is serious about meaningful discussions with the medical and scientific communities, its leaders should take care in what they say and how they say it, according to Cleveland dermatologist Kevin Cooper, MD.

"The organization alleges in its materials that dermatologists are intentionally giving patients sunburns, and that is simply untrue," said Cooper, of Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals. "If they are looking for constructive dialogue, that's not particularly helpful."

In particular, the ASA has taken aim at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) position statement on indoor tanning. Originally approved by the AAD in 1998, the statement has been updated several times, most recently in 2012. According to the statement, the AAD "opposes indoor tanning and supports prohibiting the sale and use of commercial indoor tanning equipment."

Noting that both the National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization (WHO) have classified artificial UV light as a carcinogen, the AAD calls for "implementation of federal, state, and local legislation regulating tanning salons."

The AAD also "urges the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action that will prohibit the sale and use of commercial tanning equipment, and at a minimum reclassify tanning devices to more appropriately designate the health hazards associated with their use."

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