Tougher Cancer Warnings For Tanning Beds Mulled

We recently wrote that new research revealed a link between tanning beds and <"">skin cancer. Now, tougher cancer warnings are being considered for the devices.

In an article just released by the Associated Press (AP), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering how to strengthen warnings on sunlamps to ensure consumers are aware of related cancer risks. According to science, said the AP, no tan is a safe tan.

This summer, U.S. News & World Report stated that, based on information from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), tanning beds increase the odds of developing cancer. Until then, World Health Organization (WHO) experts never confirmed a link between tanning beds and sunlamps to cancer, said U.S. News. The group, a committee that advises the WHO, changed is position after studies revealed that teenagers and young adults increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent when tanning beds are used, said U.S. News.

At the same time, CNN/CBS reported that cancer experts upgraded the risk of tanning beds “to the top of the cancer risk category,” comparing its dangers to those of arsenic and mustard gas. The WHO looked at 20 different studies said CNN/CBS. Where tanning beds had previously been labeled a “likely cause” of skin cancer, they are now considered a “definite” cause, said Newsday.

Recent studies proved that mutations occurred in mice when exposed to UVA or UVB light, another change from the belief that only one type of ultraviolet radiation is deadly said Newsday previously. “The UV light from a tanning bed is equivalent to UV light from the sun, which has had a Group One classification since 1992,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, quoted Newsday. In addition to melanoma, UVA rays can lead to basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Although melanoma is deadlier—69,000 cases and 8,650 deaths in the United States last year alone—basal and squamous cell carcinomas are dangerous, sometimes deadly, with about 2,000 deaths annually, said the AP.

The FDA regulates tanning beds as Class I devices, or low-risk medical devices that include, said the AP, other so-called low-risk devices such as band-aids. And, while tanning beds contain warning labels, labeling is not obvious and can be overlooked by consumers, pointed out the AP.

Sharon Miller, an FDA UV radiation specialist, said, We don’t recommend using them at all, but we know people do use them so we want to make them as low-risk as possible,” in response to the FDA science advisory review looking into increased warnings and reclassification of tanning beds, said the AP.

Meanwhile, industry group the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) disagrees with pending legislation to tax tanning salons to help fund Congress’ health care overhaul, saying that the science does not justify the proposed FDA changes, said the AP. The group said the risk exists to those who overdo tanning, said ITA President Dan Humiston, according to the AP. The FDA pointed out that some do overdo tanning, often going to salons multiple times weekly, despite that a once-weekly visit—according to research—offers the same tanning level.

According to Dr. David Fisher of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who is also a spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation, “If there was enough (UV) to give you a tan, it had to have triggered DNA damage,” quoted the AP. “The very pathway for tanning is directly biochemically linked to the same pathway of carcinogenesis,” added Fisher.

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