When we see pictures like this on twitter,  accompanied with the comment “How can a sunbed burn me so bad #cantmove #pain #sohot”, we often feel a sense of despair.  A youngster with such delicate skin, using sunbeds with such blatant disregard for the health of their skin, our largest organ.  When we saw the jubilation of the association that exists to support the use of sunbeds after the latest findings, we asked Sandra Phinbow, Melanoma UK’s scientific advisor and multi award winning CSci SBiomedical Scientist, for her view on this latest ‘research’.

Here is what she says:

As a medical scientist I look for evidence based medicine, and decent quality work. Recently I feel somewhat let down.  The published paper is a disappointing read and needs to be countered

My understanding on this paper is that the meta analysis – which uses statistical methods to summarise the results of a number of studies the researchers concluded many of the observational studies had poor quality data, or were incomplete.  That may be the case in this meta-analysis but we would seek to clarify what was the purpose of this work? Were there any declarations of interest? Who commissioned the work?

It is important to note “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”
(D. G. Altman and J. M. Bland BMJ. 1995 Aug 19; 311(7003): 485.)

It should not be inferred that UV tanning is safe.  We know it’s not because peopldie from Melanoma all the time and what is one of the things they have in common? Yes, you guessed it.   It is very clear here that sunbed fans appear to be over-interpreting non-significance.
When researchers say “there is no evidence that…”, they mean in general that they didn’t find any, or didn’t find enough of, a specific type of evidence that they would find convincing.

A facepalm, eye-roll and common sense should prevail here; stay away from those melanoma magnets affectionately known as UV indoor tanning booths, protect your skin from sun burn, and enjoy the nice weather sensibly. Take good care folks and look after your skin, it is, after all the largest organ of your body.

Always reach out to Melanoma UK for help and advice.

Sandra Phinbow. 

We are very grateful to Sandra for her continued support of our work.