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UV Radiation Listed as Known Carcinogen

Tanning Industry Disputes Government Decree That Sun, Artificial Lights, Cause Skin Cancer

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Not so, say those involved in compiling and distributing the RoC, which was mandated by Congress in 1978 as part of the Public Health Service Act.

"For something to be listed as a known human carcinogen, there has to be sufficient evidence from studies on humans indicating a cause or relationship between exposure to the material and human cancer," says Bill Jameson, PhD, of the National Toxicology Program, and the scientist in charge of compiling the RoC. "There is a wealth of information (on the dangers of UV overexposure) from studies on people who have been exposed to radiation -- especially those who get sunburns." The National Toxicology Program is a division of the NIEHS, the official delegate of the RoC, which updates its listing of known carcinogens every two years.

"In order to be listed on RoC, scientific data is presented over a two-year period before three separate panels comprising of recognized experts -- including dermatologists, researchers and other scientists, many of whom are not affiliated with various government health agencies that compile and review the carcinogens list," Jameson tells WebMD. "The data is presented before these panels in open and public settings, and there are three or four announcements of these meetings. The suntanning industry was aware of these meetings and gave us input during the process."

The data presented to these committees come from clinical trials and other scientific studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals. There are eight to 12 members of each committee, and "each committee voted unanimously that broad spectrum UV radiation should be considered a 'known' human carcinogen," notes NIEHS spokesman Bill Grigg.

"We have been in touch with the tanning industry for these whole two years -- ever since we first considered placing broad spectrum UV radiation on the known carcinogens list, based on numerous clinical studies. They have had the opportunity to present data," Grigg tells WebMD. "In fact, I recall attending a session with one of the committees evaluating the data, and two or three of tanning industry representatives spoke to the board."

In addition to UV radiation, other new RoC entries include wood dust, believed to boost risk of cancers of the nasal cavities and sinuses; steroidal estrogens, commonly used in estrogen replacement therapy to treat menopause and in oral contraceptives and associated with an increased chance of breast cancer; and nickel compounds used in batteries and ceramics that are linked to lung and nasal cancers.

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