Is There a Healthy Way to Tan?

Science has proven that UV exposure can lead to disfigurement, skin cancer, and even death. But the corporations that have a stake in this $4.9 billion industry are trying desperately to make everyone forget.

Much like Big Tobacco, the tanning industry is using techniques such as discounting the validity of the science behind skin cancer research, questioning the motives of dermatologists and oncologists, even taking aim at the American Cancer Society in order to cast aspersions on anyone critical of tanning beds.

And with more tanning salons in the United States than McDonald’s restaurants, it has never been easier for tanning bed manufacturers, trade publications, and salon chain operators to spread misinformation more quickly than ever.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are an average of 42 tanning salons in any given city. In comparison, the nationwide average for Starbucks cafés is 19 and there are an average of 30 McDonald’s in each city in America.

To further its propaganda campaign, the tanning industry has also released a training program called “D-Angel Empowerment Training” that incorporates talking points and a video. Employees are encouraged to use this “information” outside the salon to argue in favor of tanning by claiming it is a good source of vitamin D, and thus “a bulwark against all manner of illness, including breast cancer, heart disease and autism.”

In addition to playing defense with its public image, the tanning industry has also copied some famously successful plays that Big Tobacco has made to undermine scientific research and fund advocacy groups serving the industry’s interests. Proponents of tanning have dubbed its critics the “Sun Scare Industry” and frequently refer to them as such in a disparaging manner.

While accusing the skincare and health experts of benefiting financially from the sale of sunscreens, the tanning industry also blames this group for a supposed “deadly epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.” (Nevermind that you can also get vitamin D from foods and nutritional supplements — more easily and safely than roasting under megawatt tanning bulbs.)



However, studies are now showing that those who eschew the harmful UV rays of a tanning bed might not actually be much better off if they elect a spray-tan option either.

A new study has found a chemical in spray tan that could possibly alter and damage DNA, according to an investigation by ABC News. Ten recent studies on the chemical, called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, were reviewed by medical experts, however, the studies were only on cells in a lab and not in humans.

“These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies,” Dr. Rey Panettieri, who is a lung specialist and toxicologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC News. “And if that’s the case then we need to be wary of them.”

MyHealthNewsDaily reported that DHA is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for outside use only, meaning it shouldn’t be eaten, inhaled, put on the lips or used near the eyes. However, some tanning booths use spray tan that contains DHA, which has the potential to be inhaled if people aren’t given the right protective gear, ABC News reported.