MRF Blog

Left Armed Bandit

June 17, 2011 | Categories: Prevention

Today we heard that drivers in the United States have more skin cancer on their left arm than on their right.  This news came just after a big media push from the FDA touting their new guidelines for sunscreen

The guidelines are solid:  nothing below SPF 15 counts, no claims for being waterproof are allowed, SPF more than 50 not worth the extra money you’ll pay.  These are great steps to introduce guidance around products that too often have confusing and inconsistent labels.  Having said that….

The skin care business is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, and a growing portion of that business is comprised of products with some form of skin protection.  At the same time, melanoma is on the rise around the world.  No-one really knows why this is so, but few would argue that exposure to UV radiation is a factor.  Certainly the report about drivers and their left arms supports that concept.

Given the above, I am perplexed that the FDA took nearly a decade to make revisions to labeling guidelines that were clearly antiquated and ineffective. 

Here’s why this matters.  A year ago the FDA held a hearing on whether or not they should impose stricter regulations on tanning beds.  Currently tanning beds are in the same class of medical device as tongue depressors and bandages.  This is despite the fact that the World Health Organization has classified UV lamps in the same category as tobacco smoke.

Since that hearing, no further action has been taken.  We know the dangers of tanning beds.  We know their cost to society, measured in lives changed, shattered, lost.  Can we afford a decade of debate on this issue?  Who will pay the price while the FDA deliberates? 

So, to the FDA, thanks for issuing sorely needed guidelines on sunscreen.  Now just one more thing while we’re on the topic.…

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