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Melanoma Research Foundation’s Statement on FDA Regulation of Tanning Beds

HILLSBOROUGH, N.J.—The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) released the following statement by Timothy Turnham, executive director of the MRF, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) March 25 hearing to review current classification or regulatory controls of tanning beds.

The Melanoma Research Foundation commends the efforts of the FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee to review fully the scientific literature linking melanoma to tanning beds  and the current classification or regulatory controls of these devices. 

We are honored that a representative from the MRF’s Scientific Advisory Committee was invited to testify before this hearing.  David E. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., who serves as chief of the Department of Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, shared information about the link between tanning beds and melanoma.  He noted that exposing skin to enough UV-radiation that results in a tan means that DNA damage occurred.  This is the same damage that can cause cancerous mutations in skin cells, resulting in melanoma.

Despite the claims of the tanning industry, the link between tanning bed use and melanoma is clearly established by the research.  Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, reclassified tanning devices into the highest cancer risk category as “carcinogenic to humans.”  Tanning beds have long been considered “probable” carcinogens, but studies showing the increased risk of melanoma in those using tanning beds caused the IARC to revise the classification and urge governments to develop guidelines that will reduce the risks associated with their use.

With increased use of tanning beds over the last two decades, we’ve also seen a significant increase in the incidence of melanoma, especially in young women.  Given the widespread use of tanning beds, it is imperative the public receive clear warnings about the dangers of using these devices. 

Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide.  Recent research has shown that using tanning beds before age 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent and occasionally using tanning beds can triple your chances.  Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as sunlight or indoor tanning beds, is one of the major risk factors for most melanomas.  Last year, 69,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease, resulting in one death every single hour.

The MRF will look to the FDA to follow-through on the important discussion that was held today and re-classify tanning beds as well as mandate stronger warning labels.  Without FDA action, consumers and particularly young girls and women will remain under-informed about the risks they are taking when they step into a tanning bed. 

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About Melanoma
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types.  In fact, with a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 69,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2009, resulting in 8,650 deaths or one person every hour.  Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old. 

About Melanoma Research Foundation
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent, national organization devoted to melanoma in the United States.  Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma.  The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure.  The MRF’s Web site is the premier source for melanoma information seekers.  More information is available at www.melanoma.org