American Academy of Dermatology Teams Up with Drug Stores
and Coppertone to Mislead Sun-Tanners about Health Benefits of Sunshine

- The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Schering-Plough, The Walt Disney Company and Roche Vitamins - back controversial self-serving advocacy group -

Atlanta, GA, April 16, 2004 - In an effort to sell more sun care lotions and vitamins, a new, self-serving advocacy group - "The Sun Safety Alliance (SSA)," is masquerading as an objective professional association to dissuade people from enjoying the Vitamin D health benefits associated with ultraviolet light. SSA is being formed as a nonprofit coalition. Supported by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), SSA's founding members are The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and Schering-Plough HealthCare Products' Coppertone® sun care products (NYSE:SGP) - and include Roche Vitamins and The Walt Disney Company's (NYSE: DIS) DisneyHand program as members. In order to sell more products, the group is planning to launch a retail store merchandising campaign disguised as an educational program.

Outlawing Bikini's Next?

"Short of advocating the outlawing of the bikini, both the SSA and the AAD have ignored more than 60 years of scientific research which shows no definitive link to melanoma from occasional and moderate sunlight exposure," said Michael Stepp, a widely published UV researcher and expert, and president and CEO of Wolff System Technology. "Both groups are using fear tactics to drive the sales of sun lotions, vitamins and visits to dermatologists, which benefit their members.

In a press release issued this week by the SSA, Wolff System Technology believes SSA has misled the media by making or attributing the following false claims:

SSA Point: Wolff Counterpoint:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently declared UV radiation from the sun as a known carcinogen. The descision to list this - which the FDA does not support - has raised more questions than it answers:

HHS acknowledges it does not address or attempt to balance potential benefits of use of alleged carcinogen-causing products.

The list does not mean that moderate tanning will cause skin cancer. There is little support for an association between exposure to sunlamps or sun beds and non-melanocytic skin cancer.

Wolff System Technology contends that responsible tanning in moderation is the answer to warnings issued by dermatologists and government agencies of potential skin damage from indoor tanning.

Taking vitamin D supplements or drinking fortified milk can offset Vitamin D deficiency. Ultraviolet rays trigger the formation of vitamin D in the skin, accounting for 90 percent of the daily-recommended intake. Vitamin D from UV light stays in your body longer. Dr. Michael F. Holick, director of the Bone Health Care Clinic at Boston University Medical Center and one of the world's foremost vitamin D experts, recommends 1,000 IU daily for everyone through a combination of safe exposure to sunlight and supplements.

An eight-ounce glass of milk only contains 100 IU. Dr. Holick's studies revealed that most Vitamin D fortified milk contains less than 20 percent of the amount listed on the label, half contains less than 50 percent and 14 percent of skim milk samples contained no detectable vitamin D.

A typical multivitamin has 200 to 400 IU.

Other good dietary sources of vitamin D include salmon, which has 425 IU per 3-ounce serving; and cod liver oil, which has 1360 IU of vitamin D per tablespoon.

The AAD claims each year that even moderate exposure to sunlight can have deadly consequences. These stories come from a professional society representing dermatologists, and are sometimes persuasive to both consumers and the media. Anti-tanning lobbyists such as the AAD have intentionally confused the public to believe that any UV light exposure is dangerous. In fact, regular moderate sun exposure is not linked to melanoma, but intermittent sunburn - particularly among those who are predisposed to sunburn - is believed to be the risk factor.

During the past several months, several important new developments have been presented to scientific forums that underscore the vital role vitamin D plays in human health. While the indoor tanning industry promotes its services for cosmetic purposes, the production of vitamin D from exposure to ultraviolet light is a well-documented side effect of tanning outdoors under the sun or indoors in a professional tanning facility. The sun's rays are a key source of vitamin D, which reduces the risk of colon, breast, prostate and other cancers.

Vitamin D, commonly known as the "sunshine vitamin," is created in the body after exposure to sunlight and is essential for maintaining proper health, including the body's absorption of calcium and the proper function of muscles. Recent reports by The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New York Times, CNN, WebMD, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday and NBC News have been fair and balanced presenting both sides of the story, which is contrary to the ADA message of sun avoidance. Every May, the ADA has issued sun exposure warnings as part of their "Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month" campaign.

What the SSA and the AAD Aren't Telling You

  • The cancer risk has been debunked - sunlight does not trigger deadly basil-cell melanoma, genetic risk factors and irresponsible tanning leading to a sunburn does - Cancer Journal - Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 95, No. 20, 1530-1538, October 15, 2003

  • Sunlight - natural or artificial - is vital to human health, and our increase in antibiotics driven by pharmaceutical industry marketing has led to reduction in exposure to sunlight - leading to a sharp increase in the number of preventable illnesses and health problems.

  • Two just-published studies (from Harvard and Oxford universities) have established that appropriate exposure to UV-B sunlight (from natural or artificial sources) reduces the risk of developing multiple sclerosis by 40% "mitigating painful attacks that MS sufferers experience.

  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association links vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of colon polyps, and the maintenance of recommended levels of vitamin D to a distinct decrease in risk for the formation of these polyps, which can ultimately turn cancerous.
  • The cause(s) of melanoma skin cancer is (are) unknown. Data strongly suggests that genetics has a far greater influence than do external factors such as sun exposure, though there seems to be some correlation between intermittent overexposure early in life (bad sunburns during youth) and melanoma later in life. Researchers at the University Hospital in Tuegingen, Germany, recently made a discovery confirming Australian Dr. Richard Sturm's thesis that melanoma occurs in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease, and that little, if no evidence exists to suggest that UV exposure plays any role whatsoever in its development. Over the past 6-8 months, vitamin D studies supporting the health benefits from UV-B exposure have become more and more prevalent, culminating in the recent NIH conference held last October.

  • In October 2003, the National Institutes of Health convened a group of scientists for a conference "Vitamin D and Health in the 21st Century," aimed at exploring a troubling re-emergence of health problems, such as rickets, related to Vitamin D deficiency. Scientists there credited the "alarming prevalence" of Vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. population today mainly to weight-conscious or lactose-intolerant Americans avoiding dairy products, and those worried about skin cancer avoiding the sun.

    Testifying in October at a "Vitamin D and Health in the 21st century" conference called by the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements, William B. Grant, a retired NASA senior scientist and solar radiation expert, said his studies determined that lack of vitamin D accounts for 45,000 cancer deaths annually and 165,000 new cancer cases.

  • Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a diet rich in vitamin D protected people from developing potentially cancerous growths in the colon.

  • The journal Neurology found that women who took vitamin D supplements were 40 percent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis. (January 2004)

  • Last year the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings reported there is new evidence that small amounts of unprotected sun exposure could be good for you.

  • A University of Minnesota study linked chronic pain to an ongoing vitamin D deficiency. The study also noted that osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis could be prevented or lessened in severity by the intake of vitamin D. It also is harmful for developing fetuses and causes rickets in children.

  • According to the UVR Research Institute, for every person who dies prematurely each year as a consequence of overexposure to UVR, there are 100 people who die prematurely each year as a consequence of underexposure to UVR. Research has shown that moderate UV exposure may be associated with a decrease in the risk of breast, prostate, colon and ovarian cancer, and has also been linked to reducing high blood pressure, and to reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

  • In February, Dr. Neil Walker, chair of the skin cancer prevention coalition in Britain - a visible leader in the European dermatology community - called for his colleagues to stop telling people to stay out of the sun and to completely re-examine their anti-tanning message, calling the dermatology industry's absolute anti-sun message "draconian and unnecessary."

  • Epidemiologic studies linking exposures to skin cancer are limited because they lack information on the specific wavelengths of UVR to which the individuals were exposed. Tanning beds used in these studies involved the use of lamps used in the early 1970's, which produced significant amounts of UVB and are not being sold today. Originally, tanning beds used in the study were built with mercury arc lamps, which emitted large quantities of UVB and UVC. Today's lamps emit mostly UVA.

  • According to the UVR Research Institute, unlike mice commonly used in research, humans - own natural skin color and acquired pigmentation - better known as a "tan" - work synergistically to protect human DNA from damage. Therefore, the "core" or baseline business of indoor tanning salons delivering UVR is that they help their clients develop protective pigmentation when possible and often will protect the skin from being sunburned.

  • Ultraviolet light therapy is also used to treat psoriasis, a chronic skin disease affecting millions of Americans, and other skin disorders. Exposure to UV can prevent osteoporosis as well.

  • Indoor tanning is a more manageable, cautious alternative to the risks of outdoor tanning because the amount of time and the intensity of the skin's exposure to ultraviolet rays are controlled. Building a tan gradually and responsibly helps avoid damaging consequences of too much exposure to the sun.

Putting it all in proper perspective

According to the AAD there will be about 95,880 new cases of melanoma in 2004, which will claim the lives of an estimated 7,910 people during the year.

In contrast:

Despite the SSA's special interest caused by founding member Coppertone®, sunscreen has not been shown to reduce the risk of melanoma [Dennis et al., 2003]. According to Dr. Holick's new book, "The UV Advantage", SPF 8 reduces Vitamin D production by 97.5 percent and SPF 15 reduces it by 99.9 percent. This blocks out the sun that humans need to produce Vitamin D.

400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis. Recent studies indicate that 50% of the cases can be prevented through UVB exposure through the production of vitamin D. Thus, 200,000 cases of multiple sclerosis in the U.S. may have been prevented through moderate exposure to UVR.

According to published research by Dr.William Grant, 1,334,100 new cases and 556,500 deaths were expected from all types of cancer in the U.S. last year. Dr. Grant's published scientific work analyzing the geographic variation in cancer mortality rates with respect to solar UVB indicated that there were approximately 45,000 premature deaths and 130,000 preventable cases of cancer annually through additional UVB exposure and/or vitamin D.

In conclusion, indoor tanning has been found to be loosely associated with an increase in melanoma rates in studies in Europe and Canada, while no increased risk was found in the U.S. Even if indoor tanning were associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma, the risk pales in comparison to the health benefits resulting from vitamin D production from the UVB in tanning lamps.

"We believe both sides have validity in their arguments, and even though we also have a vested interest, we are willing to provide the media with scientific evidence that the dermatologists ignore or are unaware of," said Stepp. Since 1978, Wolff, as the founder of the indoor tanning industry in the U.S., has been the leading advocate of health related and cosmetic benefits in the U.S. for both the media and consumers alike.

Angered by research activities of professionals not under their control, medical associations such as the AAD - now in cooperation with other self-serving organizations such as SSA - are spreading misinformation in large public relations campaigns "designed to put competition from small businesses such as tanning salons and equipment suppliers out of business," Stepp added.

Researchers and tanning salon operators advise patrons to tan responsibly - to limit exposure time and use safety goggles to protect their eyes - and to make sure they are not using medications that have warning labels noting that they make users more sensitive to sunlight.

Editors Note: Michael Stepp, a recognized expert on UV light and Vitamin D and the CEO of Wolff System Technology, the founder of the indoor tanning industry in the U.S., is available for interviews.

Wolff has published a media backgrounder on the health-related benefits of Vitamin D available by emailing In addition, helpful tanning tips and a guide to proper exposure available at

Dr. Michael Holick, director of the Vitamin D Research Lab at Boston University Medical Center and considered by many to be the nation's leading authority on vitamin D, is available for interviews by contacting Daryl Toor at 770-777-9489.


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About Wolff System Technology

Wolff System Technology is one of the industry's leaders in the promotion of responsible tanning practices and has always promoted responsible tanning in moderation to protect the skin from sunburn and skin damage.

Moderate indoor tanning - for individuals who can develop a tan - is the smartest way to increase the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.

Wolff System Technology was founded by Friedrich Wolff, "the father" of the indoor tanning industry. Since 1978, Wolff has been a leading advocate of the use of UV light for health-related benefits and a leading educator to the media and consumers of responsible tanning techniques. The company manufactures lighting systems for tanning beds and with patents in 16 countries, is the exclusive licensor of Wolff System certified tanning beds in the United States and Canada. As the leading manufacturer of lamps for indoor tanning beds, Wolff has more than 500,000 systems in use worldwide. For more information, visit, or contact 1-800-959-6533 or email

Wolff System
(800) 959-6533