In March of this year, the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) purchased a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and released a television ad exhorting viewers to "go get a tan" because "your body will thank you," with images of indoor tanning beds - in use - flashing across the screen. A headline from one of their advertisements reads: "Tanning Causes Melanoma HYPE," and Sarah Longwell of the ITA claims that tanning is "just what the doctor ordered.
" The ITA, which represents thousands of indoor tanning manufacturers, distributors, and salon owners, is attacking dermatologists and the sunscreen industry for scaring people out of the sun. They promote exposure to ultraviolet light because it allows the body to produce vitamin D, which helps to prevent some cancers and depression, however vitamin D is found in several foods, such as eggs, fish, and cod liver oil,* so exposing yourself to UV light is not the only way to get vitamin D.
It is well known that excessive sun exposure can promote the development of many skin cancers. If you talk with anyone who has been diagnosed with melanoma, they would call it anything but "hype." Once diagnosed with the disease, patients typically need to have the melanoma surgically removed, have their lymph nodes examined, and some may require chemotherapy.
Melanoma can affect people of any age, race, or sex. Jamaican musician Bob Marley died from melanoma at the age of 36. The National Cancer Institute estimated in 2007 nearly 60,000 people would be diagnosed and over 8,000 would die from the disease. Unfortunately, many of these deaths likely could have been avoided.
Early detection and self-exams are critical in helping to identify and treat skin cancer. In one Melanoma study, over half (55%) of the patients seeking treatment actually discovered the cancer themselves.** During its early stages, melanoma is thin and has not deeply invaded the skin, which makes it easier to cure than later stages, when the tumors are thick and deep. A 5 year survival rate for patients with early melanoma, defined as thinner than 1 mm, is 94%, versus less than 50% for those with melanomas greater than 3 mm in thickness.**
Recognition is key to early detection.