FDA should test sunscreens’ effectiveness vs. skin cancer

With healthcare spending representing nearly 16 percent of our nation’s GDP, there is little question that healthcare reform is a serious issue to most Americans. As unemployment continues to soar and the market remains unstable, more and more people are relying on preventive measures to help avoid expensive doctor and hospital visits. What most Americans don’t know is that for years, the FDA has failed to approve comprehensive standards and ingredients that would prevent against one of the great and costly health threats facing this nation: skin cancer.

As a board-certified dermatologist practicing in downtown Washington for over 20 years, I see the deadly effects of skin cancer daily. Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer with more than 1.2 million cases diagnosed annually. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, claims over 8,000 lives each year. Accumulating evidence indicates that radiation across the entire ultraviolet spectrum (UVA and UVB) contributes to skin cancer. Sadly, the United States lacks standards to evaluate the amount of protection most sunscreens currently have against UVA rays.

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The implementation of new sunscreen standards and sunscreen ingredients would decrease the public threat posed by skin cancer and the high healthcare costs associated with treatment. For years, the FDA has dragged its feet on providing Americans with stronger sunscreen regulations and ingredients that will offer broader protection against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Modern sunscreens combining high levels of protection across the UVA and UVB spectra can be expected to be fourfold more effective in preventing melanoma than sunscreens providing just UVB protection.

I am optimistic that the recent confirmation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to her post as Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary will bring new life to this outstanding healthcare issue. In her role as governor, Sebelius worked to ensure that the citizens of Kansas had access to quality and affordable healthcare. It is my hope that that in her new position, the secretary will pressure the FDA to ensure access to quality sunscreen ingredients available in every major sunscreen market outside of the U.S., including countries in Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Mexico.

Our new HHS secretary must push the FDA to implement sunscreen standards that clearly outline the amount of protection that sunscreen products offer against cancer-causing rays on the entire UVA and UVB spectrum. Currently in the FDA’s approval queue are photostable, UV filters that provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Expediting the now-stagnant review of these sunscreen active ingredients would finally give Americans the protection they deserve.

I urge Secretary Sebelius to work closely with champions on Capitol Hill like Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) who understand the significant impact that improved sunscreen standards and ingredients would have on reforming the healthcare system. Congress must continue to press upon the FDA that this is a serious component of healthcare reform that requires immediate action. Many in the dermatology community will be keeping close watch on both HHS and the FDA to not let another summer pass without access to this state of the art sun protection technology.

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In my practice, I diagnose and treat the deadly effects of skin cancer every day. Enactment of a robust UVA standard and approval of the best sunscreen actives will offer the American public more tools to prevent this costly disease. It’s time Americans have the same protection against the sun’s harmful rays available in every other country for years. I welcome the new HHS secretary and hope that we can look to her as an advocate in the fight against skin cancer.

Washington



Make D.C. house the nation’s illegals

From Alber Sterlini

Regarding the article “Obama budget nixes aid for jailing illegal immigrants” (May 8), perhaps a better solution would be taxpayer contributions for one-way bus tickets to Washington, D.C., for illegals that a state cannot house. Then the White House and Congress can switch their focus from waterboarding to boarding illegals in D.C.

Birmingham, Mich.

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