The professional tanning community can take pride in the fact that when we do our jobs correctly, we are part of the solution – not part of the problem – in the fight against sunburn.
Now more than ever, the data tells that story: Non-tanners do most of the sunburning outdoors today, according to the government’s own data.
As I promote our responsible story to legislators nationwide, I still occasionally stumble across anti-sun groups who quote a 2014 study asking the public to believe that sunbeds cause 3,234 emergency room visits per year in the United States.
ASA debunked this in 2015. It’s worth re-telling how ridiculous that bogus statistic was.
That’s because 3,234 wasn’t a real number. It was a manufactured number. And as you look closer and closer at the math used to create it, you have to wonder how it ever got published. Consider:
The raw data came from just 405 ER reports collected between 2003-2012 in 66 hospitals nationwide. That’s less than 41 per year, which is much less than one ER visit per year/per hospital related to sunbeds.
The raw data came from a database that doesn’t even collect information about sunbeds – the researchers had to mine through a subset of a public database to produce their own set of 405 reports. They did not release this subset database nor really report the details of how they created it.
The raw data in the same database suggest that “laundry baskets” were related to about seven times more injuries as compared to sunbeds. In fact, sunbeds would rank dead last in relative risk among the items actually listed in the database.
The raw data show that ER reports in 2012 declined more than three-fold from the number collected in 2003. That should have been the lead-point – that sunburn from sunbeds was very rare and was significantly less common than it was a generation ago.
Perhaps most significant: The report did not isolate tanning salons, but rather manufactured data from sunbeds used either “at home” or in a “public property/place.” That’s where it gets really interesting.
If every sunbed in that “public property/place” category was in a tanning salon (which is unlikely – many were unmonitored sunbeds in apartment complexes or gyms) that translates into an ER injury rate of just 0.00000345, or just over three-ten-thousandths of one percent for all public sunbeds in 2012.
But since “public property/place” is not just tanning salons – and in fact, tanning salons may be the minority of sunbeds in that group – that means the ER injury rate at tanning salons would be somewhere between zero and three-ten-thousandths of one percent.
And that’s why (almost) no one quotes this number anymore. And it’s why when they do, ASA has been able to nip it in the bud.
That’s the kind of thing we do every day promoting a responsible sun care message. And why as a life-long defender of moderate UV exposure, I look at this as a challenge for the real pros in the professional suntanning market to up our sunburn-prevention game. It’s part of our success story.
Thank you for supporting ASA’s efforts to bring this forward. It’s one small part of our success story.
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