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WASHINGTON (CAP) - The Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) has launched a new campaign promoting the healthy effects of sunlight, even when that sunlight happens to cause skin cancer.
"Most cancers are caused by things like cigarettes, pesticides, exposure to radiation, that kind of thing," pointed out ITA spokesperson Sarah Livwell. "But cancer caused by the light of our very own sun - well, what could be more natural than that?"
"If I had to get cancer, I'm glad it's the sun that gave it to me," said Marsha McLennan, 42, of Freehold, N.J., who is currently undergoing treatment for melanoma at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. "If anything it makes me feel closer to nature, which was sort of how I felt all those years I spent going to tanning salons five days a week."
But according to Dr. Wayne Goodrich of Harvard Medical School, cancer is cancer, no matter how you get it.
"And besides, I don't think you can consider the UV rays you get from a tanning bed the same as the light you get from the sun," he said, noting that some estimate tanning bed sunlamps as being 10 times stronger than sunlight. "Also, you don't seal yourself inside the sun for 20 minutes a day. I'm just saying."
But Livwell defends the use of tanning beds as a natural substitute for the sun's healing and yet cancer-causing light. "Sometimes it's cloudy," she points out.
Livwell calls the overwhelming evidence cited by dermatologists, oncologists and sunscreen makers as part of a "sunlight scam," designed to make people fear the sun. "We are not advocating on behalf of tanning beds, but on behalf of the sun," she said. "And the sun can't advocate for itself, because it's 91 million miles away and made up of, you know, gases and stuff."
Tanning proponents also point to recent studies that show the health benefits of vitamin D, which humans get from sunlight and which has been known to help prevent cancer and some autoimmune disorders. "Also, without vitamin D your bones eventually crumble to dust, turning you into nothing more than a jiggly pile of loose flesh," said Livwell. "I'm sure I read that somewhere."
Studies have shown that vitamin D can have beneficial health effects, said Dr. Goodrich, but he added that about five minutes of incidental sun exposure a day is enough to garner those benefits and still avoid a deep tan that could be dangerous to your skin. Still, pointed out cancer patient McLennan, without the tan, "it would be much harder to get dates."
McLennan did admit, however, that she is being compensated by the ITA for her endorsement. "I get free tanning for life," she noted, "or until my skin falls off."
- CAP News Staff