The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2015

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

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Page 70 of 115

VITAMIN D | A BAD EXCUSE FOR A TAN | MELANIE D. PALM, MD, MBA little over a year ago, I picked up a throwaway magazine dropped at the front entrance of my dermatology practice in Southern California. Within this so-called natural lifestyle magazine, I found an article extolling the "health benefits" of indoor tan- ning. One of the prime benefits it mentioned was vitamin D. This felt like a slap. As a dermatologist who spends significant time educating the public on the harm that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) does to the skin, I was dumbfounded that even today, in the face of irrefutable opposing evidence, anyone could contend that UV tanning beds are good for one's health. Even more insidious was the claim that they are a great source of vitamin D, when the truth is, rather than generate substantial vitamin D, they destroy DNA. The tanning industry has helped perpetuate such beliefs, and the media unfortunately have some- times been complicit. For example, in 2008, an ad ran in the New York Times promoting the benefits of UV exposure and dismissing the idea that tanning bed use can cause melanoma. 1 Such declarations, rang- ing from misleading to fraudulent, help support what is now a $5 billion dollar tanning industry c omprised of nearly 50,000 facilities in the US alone, serving approxi- mately 30 million Americans a year. 2,3 Unfortunately, many of these misguided, errone- ous beliefs are out there, promoting both outdoor and indoor UV exposure and tanning as a vitamin D source. Polls and studies show that consumers buy it hook, line, and sinker. 1 Here, we take the opportunity to dispel these notions one by one. Melanie Palm, MD, MBA, is the Director of Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach, CA, and an assistant volunteer clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California San Diego. She is a member of The Skin Cancer Foundation's Amonette Circle. 69 For the latest information and updates go to: SUNBATHING IS THE BEST WAY TO OBTAIN VITAMIN D, AND IT'S FREE. It depends on what you mean by free. It's only free if you don't consider the lifetime cost to your health of skin damage. Yes, the body manufactures vitamin D when the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a cho- lesterol precursor called 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) in the skin, converting it into vitamin D 3 . However, sunbathing defeats the purpose for many reasons. First, it takes only a few minutes of sun – as little as 5 minutes of exposure to the face, arms or back twice weekly – for the body to manufacture sufficient vitamin D. 1 In fact, it has been estimated that for a Caucasian in New York City at 12 PM in summer, just five minutes a day would prompt maximum vitamin D production. 4 If you have more sun exposure than that – certainly if you sunbathe long enough to tan – your store of vitamin D actually starts to deplete, breaking down into inactive compounds. 5,6 On the other hand, with each passing minute of sun exposure, the amount of damage to your skin cells – to your skin's very DNA – keeps rising. Tanning itself is a direct response to DNA damage to your skin cells – your body's attempt to build a wall of dark pigment against further damage. 7 But unfortunately, permanent harm has already been done, and as the damage mounts over a lifetime, the rate at which your skin ages keeps accelerating and your risk of skin cancer keeps rising. About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers 8 and 86% of melanomas 9 are linked to the sun's UV rays. So sunbathing – especially sunbathing long enough to tan, or worse yet, burn – is a terrible idea. A MYTH # 1

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