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Cancer Health Center

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UV Radiation Listed as Known Carcinogen

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


Another Wolff System spokesman, Daryl Toor, says that most of the science used to make the RoC listing was based on studies done on rats and other laboratory animals. "Drawing conclusions about humans based on fish/mice studies is difficult, if not impossible, primarily because humans have repair mechanisms that are not present in 'sensitive' lab animals" who lack melanin, a natural sunscreen produced by humans.

Toor also tells WebMD that the tanning industry was not allowed to present its own data on the benefits of UV exposure through sunlight and artificial light sources. "Even though the laws of the [agency that compiles the RoC] are supposed to encourage outside opinions, it never contacted anyone in the industry for any input," he tells WebMD. "We were not included or allowed to give outside opinion."

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."

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