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Sunbed cancer risk may be worth it - study

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Sunbed cancer risk may be worth it - study

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun or sunbeds may contribute to skin cancer, but because of its ability to stimulate vitamin D the increase in risk might be a small price to pay, according to new research.

The review article's lead author is Johan Moan, a Norwegian scientist and researcher with the Department of Radiation Biology at the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital and the recipient of their 2011 research prize.

The article concluded the overall potential health benefits of improved vitamin D status may be more important than the possibility of increased cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) risk resulting from controlled UV exposure, assessed from studies into the relative risk of CMM associated with sunbed use, vitamin D and UV effects on human health spanning over 30 years.

The researchers state: "Sun exposure is commonly supposed to be the main cause of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) in most populations. However, the matter is disputed." Genetic factors, including an inability to create protective melanin pigment, are also thought to be crucial to the development of CMM.

The comparative impact on public health outcomes is put very clearly in this example: "It can be estimated that increased sun exposure to the Norwegian population might at worst result in 200-300 more CMM 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."

Moan continues: "Due to the fear of skin cancer, health authorities warn against the use of tanning beds, but this statement, along with recommended Vitamin D levels, should be re-evaluated."

Tiffany Brown, spokesperson for the Indoor Tanning Association NZ Inc (INTANZ) commented: "This latest study serves to re-confirm what many leading vitamin D researchers have said for decades- that moderate exposure to UV light, whatever the source, creates vitamin D in the body, and vitamin D is crucial for human health."

INTANZ is currently developing a position statement in response to recent warnings from the NZ Commerce Commission regarding possible misleading statements from sunbed operators.

Brown says, "Our organization represents a small number of sunbed operators, who we advise to be circumspect in their delivery of such news to indoor sunbathing consumers. This kind of news does not remove the risks inherent with over-exposure or irresponsible exposure to UV light, but people deserve to hear there are credible international scientists involved in the field of vitamin D who do not agree with the World Health Organisation's recommendation to avoid sunbeds.

'The Commerce Commission has warned us the information we refer to must be current, reliable, and accurate. On that basis this is a very important study for people to know about. The review itself joins the international chorus singing from the same hymn sheet- it is over-exposure and sunburn that must be avoided whether exposing the skin to the sun or sunbeds. Moderation is the key."

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