FDA targets tanning beds

Just
as millions head to tanning beds to prepare for spring break, the Food and
Drug Administration will be debating how to toughen warnings that those
sunlamps pose a cancer risk.

Yes,
sunburns are particularly dangerous. But there’s increasing scientific
consensus that there’s no such thing as a safe tan, either.

The
World Health Organization’s cancer division last summer listed tanning beds
as definitive cancer-causers, right alongside the ultraviolet radiation that
both they and the sun emit. They’d long been considered “probable”
carcinogens, but what tipped the scales: An analysis of numerous studies that
concluded the risk of melanoma jumps by 75 per cent in people who used tanning beds
in their teens and 20s.

Next
comes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has long regulated
tanning beds as “Class I devices,” a category of low-risk
medical devices that includes bandages. Tanning beds do bear some warnings
about the cancer link, but the FDA recently decided those labels aren’t visible
enough to consumers and don’t fully convey the risk, especially to young
people.

So
in March, the FDA’s scientific advisers open a public hearing to explore
stricter tanning bed regulation, both stiffer warnings and reclassifying
them to allow other steps.

“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,” says FDA UV radiation specialist
Sharon Miller.

The Indoor Tanning Association,
already fighting pending legislation that would tax tanning salons to help pay
for Congress’ health care overhaul, argues there’s no new science to justify
increased FDA regulation. Any risk is to people who overdo it, says ITA
President Dan Humiston, arguing that’s easier to do in the sun.

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