Delta Payet, now 40, was told by her doctor while in her 20’s to go get some sun for the SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that she was experiencing during a long cold winter in Vermont. She went to a tanning salon about three times a week for about three months then intermittently for the next three years, as reported in a story in Self magazine’s June 2011 issue.
Later, at the age of 30, a dermatologist found and removed a precancerous mole on Payet's arm, leaving a 1-inch-by-1-inch scar. More moles followed and were removed and the dermatologist expressed that it was unusual for someone with no family history of skin cancer to develop so many moles--unless she had excessively tanned in her youth.
Twenty years ago, it would not be surprising for a doctor to tell a patient to go get some sun to feel better but today, we wouldn’t expect anyone to be told to get a tan for a non-medical reason.
The self.com article went on to state that according to a survey by the International Smart Tan Network of 6,881 people who went to tanning salons, 46 percent of indoor tanners say they’ve gone tanning for non-cosmetic reasons and 11 percent did so on the advice of their doctor. Those surveyed reported that their doctors suggested they seek tanning to treat conditions such as depression, vitamin D deficiency, skin disorders or fibromyalgia.
It is important to note that the International Smart Tan Network is not a particularly unbiased group. They are an organization that promotes indoor tanning and they assist their members with their indoor tanning businesses through information and sales support. Access to the survey is not available on their website so it isn’t not known how the survey questions were worded to determine how a patient was advised to go to a tanning salon.
Doctors do know that indoor tanning can cause skin cancer. It may be that doctors made casual suggestions to patients that they get some sun with or without following the statement with an extra precaution to wear sunscreen or to limit their exposure to only so many minutes a day.