News & Press

Melanoma Researchers Take Hard Line Against UV Exposure


                        Deborah Danuser

                        Jones Public Affairs

                        (202) 742-5256

                        [email protected]


Researchers Take Hard Line Against UV Exposure

– Hundreds Affirm Harmful Effects of Ultraviolet Rays, Discourage Intentional Tanning –


WASHINGTON, DC – Researchers have expressed concern over a new campaign initiated by the tanning industry, which seeks to dispel the link between melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, and UV exposure from natural or artificial sources (such as tanning beds).  In response, nearly 500 of the foremost experts on melanoma signed a statement affirming the existence of evidence-based data demonstrating the harmful effects of UVA and UVB radiation.  The statement, which was initiated at the 5th Melanoma Research Congress in Sapporo, Japan on May 7-12, not only states that UV rays increase one’s risk for skin cancer, including melanoma, but also maintains that the use of indoor tanning (outside of medical practice) represents an example of an avoidable cause of lethal cancer.


Studies show that UV light is a carcinogen (i.e. causes cancer).  This occurs when skin cells are damaged after UV exposure (either from the sun or a tanning bed).  The same DNA damage that triggers tanning also appears capable of causing cancerous mutations in skin cells.  If those mutations are not completely repaired—as frequently occurs—skin cancers may result.  Additional data demonstrates that indoor tanning devices emit UV radiation that is similar to, and sometimes more powerful than, that emitted by the sun.  In fact, a systematic review of worldwide data, published in the March 2007 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, found a prominent, consistent increase – 75 percent – in risk for melanoma in people who begin using tanning beds in their teens or twenties.  Additionally, the review also showed that people across all age groups who have ever used tanning beds face a 15 percent higher risk of developing melanoma than those who have not.  Even more dramatic increases were seen in certain non-melanoma forms of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, a tumor that only on occasion spreads from the skin and may then be lethal.


Many scientists also point out that vitamin D, although produced in the skin, can easily be obtained by non-UV related means, such as dietary supplements.  These dietary supplements would not carry the risk of cancer associated with UV radiation, in cases where increased vitamin D levels are deemed beneficial.


The Melanoma Research Foundation’s (MRF) Scientific Advisory Committee stated, “The petition was developed to reinforce that the scientific community continues to stand behind strong data supporting the connection between skin cancer and UV-exposure.  As physicians and scientists, we are concerned that this campaign may confuse the public, putting them at an increased risk for a disease that is too often lethal.”


Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the U.S. and can strike people of all ages, all races and both sexes.  In fact, one in 50 people have a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.  Further, approximately 65 percent of all melanomas are attributed to UV exposure resulting from natural and artificial sources.


A wealth of information exists about how to reduce the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers, yet both MRF and SMR advise that the most important measure the public can take is to avoid intentional sunbathing and indoor tanning devices.  For those who want to learn safe ways to access to vitamin D and look “tan,” or for more information about melanoma and UV exposure, please visit www.melanoma.org or www.societymelanomaresearch.org.


About Melanoma

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is one of the fastest growing cancers in the U.S., and can strike people of all ages, all races and both sexes.  One in 50 people have a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.  In fact, in 2008, more than 62,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with invasive melanoma, resulting in an estimated 8,400 deaths.  Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.  Nationally, one person dies of melanoma nearly every hour – and this number is rising.


About the Melanoma Research Foundation

The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest private, national organization devoted to melanoma in the United States.  The Foundation is committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma.  The Foundation also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma, while acting as an advocate for the melanoma community to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure.  The MRF Web site is the premiere source for melanoma information seekers.  More information is available at www.melanoma.org.


About the Society for Melanoma Research

The Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) is an all-volunteer group of scientists working to find the mechanisms responsible for melanoma and, consequently, new therapies for this cancer.  SMR contributes to advances in melanoma research by bringing together researchers to unite the scientific community and hasten the discovery of preventative and curative therapies.  More information is available at www.societymelanomaresearch.org.


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