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    Bill would limit sunbed rays, tanning times

    New York — Congress is considering a bill that would allow federal regulators to limit the ultraviolet radiation emitted by tanning beds and restrict the amount of time consumers may tan indoors.

    In late January, U.S. Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) introduced the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act in the House of Representatives.

    "My bill calls for two things: an FDA review of the classification of tanning beds as medical devices, and new standards of use" based on the best available science, Rep. Maloney tells Dermatology Times. "The classification that exists — the same category as Band-Aids — seems wholly inadequate.

    “The UV technology itself has gotten much stronger since 1985, the last time standards were set, even as the medical community has learned much more about the causes and treatment of melanoma," she says.

    Rather than proposing specific usage standards, she emphasizes, the bill calls for a thoughtful re-analysis based on today's evidence.

    Ellen S. Marmur, M.D., says it's tough to make specific recommendations because the potency of existing tanning beds is difficult to measure. She is chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York.

    Dr. Marmur says she has been active in skin cancer awareness efforts by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and has provided information regarding the rising number of skin cancers she sees in teenage tanners to Rep. Maloney as part of the bill's preparation.

    "To say that parental permission is required, or that a person can have five minutes or less per session, or to restrict the number of sessions, misses the heart of the matter,” she says. “Saying you can tan indoors safely is like saying you can safely drive drunk.

    “You're taking a risk every time you tan. It's been well-proven that UV rays are carcinogenic. The problem is, it's a stealth injury — you may spend 10 years tanning" before developing melanoma, Dr. Marmur says.

    AAD President William D. James, M.D., says the AAD Association supported the bill but makes no recommendations about specific performance standards for tanning beds or bulbs.

    “Any UV radiation exposure that results in a tan causes DNA mutations — the implication being that there is no possible standard manufacturing protocol that could create bulbs that emit a safe dose of UV radiation," he says.

    Regarding the bill's future, Rep. Maloney says, "It's my hope that the (House) Energy and Commerce Committee will look at the legislation and have a public hearing on the bill, then perhaps move it to the floor" for a vote.

    She is also seeking a Senate sponsor for the act, which in the House was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of five representatives.

    Dr. Marmur adds that while she doesn't expect the bill will close tanning salons permanently, "There should be a consortium of doctors and tanning salon owners where all the information is put on the table and standards are recommended in a way that would be acceptable," ideally to both sides.

    Disclosures: Drs. Marmur and James report no relevant financial interests.

    For more information (existing tanning bed regulations): www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?FR=1040.20

    John Jesitus
    John Jesitus is a medical writer based in Westminster, CO.

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