Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Protecting Our Skin - Where do you stand?

The FDA has been sauntering on the issue of sunscreen regulation for nearly 30 years. Yet, the Environmental Protection Agency recently sent an email blast to members of its SunWise program that included a news report mentioning the FDA is finally moving closer toward an official position on monitoring sunscreen manufacturers. (Can we say, "It's about time?")

Granted, with any talk of regulations comes controversy. This ought not surprise me. The cosmetics industry fears that their interests may be crimped or hindered and retail stores worry how this may effect them, as well. In truth, however, it is absolutely vital and essential that FDA have a recognized and universally acceptable standard by which sunscreens are measured, thus providing consumers with effective protection against both UV-A and UV-Br rays, as well as accurate and clearly understandable information and, in turn, peace of mind. After all, the Australian government has issued standards regarding sunscreens. They require that sunscreens have [minimum] 5% titanium dioxide and [minimum] 5% zinc oxide so as to provide optimal broad-spectrum protection against ultraviolet radiation. So, why shouldn't the United States have standards on sunscreen, especially since melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills another American every 68-minutes. And, isn't it the job of the FDA to establish guidelines and standards to protect the consumers; to hold companies accountable to their consumers?

That said, I recently came across an interesting comment written by Amanda Hanley of Massachusetts regarding this very issue:

"Chief Justice John Roberts doesn't believe sunscreens need to be regulated. Apparently he has all the protection he needs -- we hear those robes offer excellent skin cancer prevention.

In the 29 years that the FDA has been wavering on sunscreen regulations, the cosmetics industry has used some pretty crazy tactics to prevent them from passing. In 2001, for example, they hired a lawyer to threaten a lawsuit. The proposed regulations, the lawyer argued, violated the first amendment.

In 2005, that lawyer took his seat as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

That's right. As recently as 2001, Justice John Roberts was lobbying on behalf of the cosmetics industry -- a fact he failed to disclose during his hearings. Not only was Justice Roberts lobbying for the cosmetics industry, but he successfully blocked regulations that may have prevented countless cases of skin cancer.

And this is the man running our Supreme Court. Doesn't it just make you feel all safe and cozy?

Hopefully, without Roberts defending them this time around, the cosmetics industry won't be able block the FDA's recently proposed sunscreen regulations. In the meantime just follow Roberts' lead for skin cancer prevention: stay inside and swing decisions to the right."

While I generally refrain from mixing politics with skin cancer crusading (skin cancer prevention ought to be about protecting people from harm, not about politics), I must admit that it baffles me to hear that a public servant, a community leader would be opposed to supporting measures that protect people and their health. Then again, when collaborating with other skin cancer crusaders on behalf of regulating minors' use of tanning beds we encountered opposition there, as well. (Thank you to Senator Pat Jones who helped pass legislation here in Utah).

Needless to say, do you know where your leaders stand on issues related to skin cancer prevention, tanning beds, melanoma research, insurance and patient care, sun safety education, and sunscreens?

If you support the FDA in its efforts to ensure consumers - YOU - will have quality sunscreens that provide optimum protection, require that sunscreen manufacturers adhere to strict standards of quality and truth in advertising, and would like to know that you are "getting what you pay for", then I encourage you make your voice heard. Speaking up about issues that are near and dear to you is not being obnoxious or contentious as some of my students may sometimes think; rather, it is part of raising awareness for a growing yet unnecessary epidemic -- skin cancer.

Let us not engage in a battle of wits, per se, and become entangled among legal jargon/rhetoric regarding whose self-interests are at stake. Quite frankly, I believe that sunscreen regulations would actually benefit all involved -- the cosmetics industry, retail stores and distributors, as well as consumers. It is in everyone's best interests to have regulations regarding quality sunscreens. And, truth be told, the real bottom-line is about taking steps to protect people from skin cancer. With 1.3 million Americans diagnosed with skin cancer every year, and 90-95% of those being preventable with proper sun safety precautions (such as the proper and year-round use of a SPF 15 broad-spectrum sunscreen) this issue is too important to be lost amid politics and special interests.

Two years ago, while at a dermatology conference, I had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation with a woman from the Cosmetics Toiletries and Fragrances Association and a gentleman from Neostrata about ingredients used in sunscreens. It is interesting to note what different industry members have to say regarding this matter. In sum, nearly all credible skin care companies, along with skin cancer educators and health advocates, agree that to wait 30 years for FDA regulations regarding quality sunscreens is ridiculous. We simply cannot afford to delay action on this issue. The subject of choosing an effective sunscreen and how to maximize sunscreen efficacy is an issue I am passionate about. If you share that passion, I encourage you share your thoughts with the FDA. Another day that passes, another 24 Americans succumb to melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Yet, skin cancer is PREVENTABLE! So, let us do all we can to work together to prevent it where/when possible. This is about saving lives from a growing yet unnecessary epidemic, right? Therefore, I encourage you to research this issue further, and to be proactive about proper sun safety and dermatologic health.

Constantly Crusading,
Danielle & the Cancer Crusaders

PS: Huntsman Cancer Institute conducted an evaluation of all the sunscreens on the market, studying their ingredients and cost-per-ounce. For more information, contact the Tom C. Mathews Jr. Familial Melanoma Research Clinic at HCI. You can also check out the sunscreen database.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Thanks for the nod! I'm definitely with you -- it seems more than ridiculous that it has taken the FDA nearly 30 years to establish regulations. I've actually written quite a bit about sunscreen regulation at Enviroblog, since it's a topic EWG has been working hard on. Have you seen the sunscreen database? It allows you to research different products (and their ingredients) so that you can pick one that's safe and effective.