American Academy of Dermatology responds to Wall Street Journal article

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Jul. 15, 2014) — 

Ann Lukits
Wall Street Journal

Dear Ms. Lukits,

On behalf of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) and its 17,000 members, I am writing to express concern about your coverage of a recent study on the mortality rates of women and their sun exposure in Not Enough Sun Exposure Can Be Risky. Your coverage of this study could encourage the public to seek the sun, which could ultimately increase their risk for skin cancer.

Although the study suggests that women who avoid sun exposure are twice as likely to die as compared to those who receive sun exposure, it has several glaring limitations: The study only looked at a person’s sun exposure. The study did not take into account the women’s vitamin D supplementation or even record the vitamin D levels of participants. And, as its own authors point out, the study did not distinguish between the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle and avoidance of sun exposure.

It is a well-established fact that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sun or indoor tanning can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma 1,2 – the deadliest form of skin cancer – and non-melanoma.   At current rates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

To reduce their risk for getting skin cancer, the Academy recommends that everyone seek shade, cover up and wear broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher regardless of their skin type. Further, vitamin D can be safely and easily obtained from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D, and/or vitamin D supplements. Because of the known side effects of UV exposure, vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to UV radiation.3

As a reputable news outlet, it is the Wall Street Journal’s job to carefully review and analyze studies and report on their accuracy – or lack thereof – to the public. Without this, the paper risks publishing misguided or faulty information and jeopardizing not only its journalistic integrity among readers, but also their overall health.


Brett M. Coldiron, MD, FAAD

1Lim HW, James WD, Rigel DS, Maloney ME, Spencer JM, Bhushan R. Adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation from the use of indoor tanning equipment: time to ban the tan. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 May;64(5):893-902.
2O’Leary RE, Diehl J, Levins PC. Update on tanning: More risks, fewer benefits. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Mar;70(3):562-8.
3American Academy of Dermatology. Position Statement on Vitamin D. /Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Vitamin%20D%20Postition%20Statement.pdf