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FDA Panel Weighs New Restrictions on Tanning Beds
Date:3/25/2010

Experts say devices' UV rays help spur skin cancer, but industry says it's not so clear

THURSDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Recent calls for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clamp down on tanning bed use will heat up again Thursday as an agency panel debates new restrictions on the devices, which some health experts say contribute to cancer.

"We are hoping the FDA will reclassify tanning beds," said Dr. Allan Halpern, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Currently, tanning beds are classified as class I medical devices, "which means these cancer-causing machines are in the same category as tongue depressors and elastic bandages and subject to few regulations and little oversight," the foundation noted in a news release.

On Thursday, the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel -- part of the FDA's Medical Devices Advisory Committee -- will look over the latest data on the risks of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from tanning beds. According to the agency, there is a growing body of evidence that shows an association between skin cancer and the use of tanning lamps.

For its part, the Skin Cancer Foundation would like to see the classification of tanning beds changed to a class II device. For one thing, that could prevent the devices from containing mirrors, which amplify the power of UV exposure.

In addition, the foundation wants tanning beds to be manufactured and labeled in such a way that the public is better educated about their danger. They also want manufacturers to keep a registry monitoring the use of their products.

"UV light is a known cause of cancer," Halpern said. "That's recognized by the U.S. government, by the World Health Organization (WHO). And what tanning beds do is deliver UV light."

On the other side of the debate, John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said the industry is already well-regulated.


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