The Skin Cancer Foundation recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking it to investigate the MTV series Jersey Shore’s portrayal of tanning. The complaint alleges that Jersey Shore — recently cancelled but expected to live on through repeats — consistently depicted ultraviolet (UV) tanning as an enjoyable ritual (part of the cast’s “GTL”, or gym, tan, laundry routine), instead of the cancer-causing activity it is. “The references to tanning as harmless recreation are hazardous to public health,” said Perry Robins, MD, the Foundation’s President and Founder.
The Foundation’s survey of 17 Jersey Shore episodes identified 186 visual or verbal references to UV tanning, including a photo of a tanning parlor shown in the show’s opening credits — with no mention of tanning’s serious health risks. Just one indoor tanning session increases chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session significantly adds to the risk. Melanoma will kill almost 9,500 people in the US this year alone. Repeats of Jersey Shore will continue to expose its young audience to this disturbing behavior, without any disclaimer. “We are dealing with a tanning epidemic, and I see the effects on young people every day in my practice,” said Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, Senior Vice President of the Foundation. “There’s a cavalier attitude that it’s ‘just’ skin cancer, easily remedied. But it’s not a joke to people who watch their nose get destroyed by skin cancer, or who undergo chemotherapy to stop the spread of a potentially deadly melanoma. I’ve had patients — frequent tanners as young as 25 — die from melanoma.”
While MTV does not advocate any particular behavior, the network has an impressionable demographic at particular risk for skin cancer: from 1970 to 2009, melanoma incidence increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men. By refusing to warn Jersey Shore viewers about the dangers of tanning, MTV is putting lives in danger. View the Foundation's Complaint