Sunless Tanning Benefits

How's this for a scientific study?  Recruit women who are tanning at the beach to participate in a trial using sunless tanning products along with education and public health messaging on the dangers of UV exposure, or just completion of a survey regarding tanning behavior.  That's in this issue of Archives of Dermatology. Rick waxes very enthusiastic about the study in this week's podcast.  I guess that should be expected from someone who studies stenting and the like.  In any case, the study looked at short and longer term changes in behavior, and found that those women who used the products and became educated regarding the dangers of tanning reduced their risk taking behavior significantly with respect to sun exposure.

Researchers recruited 250 women at two public beaches in Massachusetts.  Half received a photograph of their skin showing damage related to UV exposure, instruction on how to use sunless tanning products containing a dye approved by the FDA in the 1970s called dihydroxyacetone, and free samples of products containing the dye.  The control group filled out a questionnaire, had an instant picture taken and were given free samples of products unrelated to skin care.

The intervention group was contacted at two months and one year after recruitment.  By all measures, including hours sunbathing, sunburns, use of protective clothing and use of sunless tanning products, the intervention was a success.  Since UV exposure is now ranked at the highest category of carcinogens, along with arsenic and mustard gas (!) this is no doubt a good thing.

We all know that sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer dramatically, and skin cancers of all types are epidemic.  If use of sunless tanning products allows people to achieve the look they want without the risk, it seems like a win-win.  One issue is long term exposure to dihydroxyacetone, but no data exist on that potential risk.  Since the dye binds to dead cells very close to the skin surface which will soon be sloughed off anyway, the risk/benefit ratio seems to fall in favor of sunless tanning.  And to add my own public health message at this point, I think it's an indictment of our profit driven society that tanning salons are even allowed to remain in business.

Other topics this week include replacing the aortic valve in the heart via a skin incision in NEJM, screening for testicular cancer and a common antacid and anticlotting medicine taken together in Annals of Internal Medicine.  Sorry, hyperlinks not working this week.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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