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US adults step away from the tanning bed

US adults step away from the tanning bed | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Slowly but surely, individuals are turning their backs on indoor tanning -- without catching any rays -- according to a new study.

To be clear, the practice is still in full swing with an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still flocking to tanning beds despite a decades-old link to increased cancer risk, according to the study.

Yet the rates dipped from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, the study concluded.


In the study, which was published online in a research letter by JAMA Dermatology, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, worked with data from 59,145 individuals.

The team was able to identify decreases in tanning bed use among those aged between 18 and 29, whose rates dipped from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 8.6 percent in 2013.


In this group, women made up 8.6 percent of indoor tanners in 2010 and 6.5 percent in 2013 while men represented 2.2 percent in 2010 and 1.7 percent in 2013.


Women who use tanning beds saw a 28 percent drop in the oldest age bracket, and college graduates' use of tanning beds dropped 45 percent.


Whereas women in fair or poor health saw a dip of 33 percent, very fit women abandoned tanning bed use by 23 percent.


Their male counterparts, however, flocked to indoor tanning salons, upping their frequency by 177 percent in the 40 to 49 age bracket.

Tanning bed use was 71 percent higher in men age 50 or older, however, cancer survivors discontinued use by 45 percent.


The research team attributes the dip to increased awareness and the classification of indoor tanning beds as carcinogenic as well as a 10 percent excise tax that exists nationwide.


"Physicians can also play a role through behavioral counseling, which is recommended for fair-skinned persons aged 10 to 24 years," write the researchers. "Continued surveillance of indoor tanning will aid program planning and evaluation by measuring the effect of skin cancer prevention policies and monitoring progress."

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Why you can't believe all the health articles that you read

Why you can't believe all the health articles that you read | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

I have recently become a card-carrying member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.  Lofty title for a lowly blogger, but I’ll take it.  There are two main advantages to this membership, at least that I can see so far.  The first is access to the full text of online journals, key to actually discussing research intelligently.  The second is the discussion groups, where journalists of all stripes can ask questions about reporting on health issues or point out recent discoveries.  I recently found out just how important both of these perks are, and how they relate.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently released an article entitled, “The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases.” It is pretty well known that mainstream media, and not-so-mainstream media, tend to seize on major research with potentially far-ranging implications and emphasize or exaggerate significant findings.  Not only that, but news articles often use a single study to advise people on health-related decisions.  What the researchers of this BMJ paper wanted to know is where does the misinformation found in the media coverage of some health-related research come from?  Is it from the academics, the press releases, the journalists, or some combination?

The researchers looked at 462 press releases on biomedical and health-related research issued from universities, and compared them to the corresponding news stories and peer-reviewed journal articles.  The idea here is that the peer-reviewed journal articles contain the most accurate and conservative reporting of findings, because the research is being reviewed by people who are experts in whatever field is being reported.  So if the news stories and press releases don’t match the articles, some sort of embellishment may be going on.

The researchers found that 33 to 40 percent of the academic press releases exaggerated causation, advice, or inference in some way, and that the news articles took those claims and published them as is, or, in some cases, exaggerated them even more.  Now, to be fair, 10 to 18 percent of news articles did some sort of embellishment even with accurate press releases, news needing to be newsworthy and all.

Also, the research was all done with United Kingdom where the media are notoriously aggressive. But studies like this suggest that academic institutions, far from being the arbiters of caution when it comes to research, might actually contribute to the misinformation that plagues medical journalism.  The reasons for this are not addressed by the BMJ paper, but as a non-peer-reviewed blogger I can speculate all I want.  Competition for grant money and top research talent is fierce, and big research universities consider finances and status as much as industry does. A big discovery does wonders for alumni giving.

How to combat this?  Free and open access to original research, for one.  Removal of financial incentives from researchers and universities, for another.  And, ideally, the building of a society educated in basic statistics and simple journal article evaluation.  Do not get caught by big claims.  They are seldom true.


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