Mercola: Tanning Prevents Cancer
The internet’s most-read health-education web site is promoting indoor tanning as a healthy activity — pointing to a recent published medical review claiming the benefits of regular UV exposure far outweigh the risks associated with overexposure.
Mercola.com — the health-education web site run by Dr. Joseph Mercola — published an essay reviewing a peer-reviewed research paper in the journal Public Health Nutrition supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society arguing that the benefits of regular UV exposure outweigh the risks.
“It can be estimated that increased sun exposure to the Norwegian population might at worst result in 200-300 more melanoma deaths per year, but it would elevate the vitamin D status by about 25 nmol/l and might result in 4,000 fewer internal cancers and about 3,000 fewer cancer deaths overall,” Dr. Johan Mohan and colleagues from the University of Oslo Department of Radiation Biology wrote in the Public Health Nutrition article. “The lack of sunlight exposure leads to more health problems than bone disease and increased risk of cancer. Other benefits include protection against infectious diseases and non-cancerous diseases (diabetes, CVD, multiple sclerosis, and mental disorders).”
According to the reviewers, “Due to the fear of skin cancer, health authorities warn against sun and sunbed exposure. This policy, as well as the recommended vitamin D doses, may need revision.”
Mercola also pointed out that some journalists are picking up on the fact that the risks of UV exposure and sunbeds are not being communicated correctly by dermatology and many health care journalists. He points to a review by Dr. Ivan Oransky, M.D., editor of Reuters Health, showing that anti-sun naysayers are twisting the numbers. The largest study of sunbed users “found that less than three-tenths of 1 percent who tanned frequently developed melanoma while less than two-tenths of 1 percent who didn’t tan developed melanoma.”
So the actual difference was 1 out of 1,000 users — and that doesn’t adjust for other confounding variables, such as home or medical use of equipment — known to be larger risk factors than commercial use of equipment — or skin type of those using sunbeds. In Europe, many Skin Type I individuals use sunbeds for therapeutic reasons.
So anti-tan naysayers use the relative risk figure to incite fear, Mercola points out, while the absolute risk figure shows very little difference in risk.
“So, while statistically true, it’s really misleading, and incites undue fear. By only presenting the relative risk increase (the 75 percent increase) they make the risk sound rather unreasonable,” Mercola wrote. “Meanwhile, your absolute risk of developing skin cancer from sun exposure is still, AT WORST, below one percent! And please remember, these highly distorted scare tactics fail to mention the BENEFITS of the exposure, which radically reduce the dangers of the far more common, breast-, prostate- and colon cancers that are reduced.”