With summer upon us and skin cancer rates at epidemic proportions, a recent report in the News Journal by Jen Rini, The Heat is on: What everyone needs to know about sunscreens was timely and informative.
However the article did not provide a complete picture of the limitations that Delawareans and all U.S. consumers unknowingly face as they try to protect themselves from the most harmful rays of the sun.
Simply put, Americans do not have access to the latest sunscreen technology, in spite of the fact that in 2014 the Congress came together and unanimously passed a bill to pave the way to bring additional sunscreen products to the U.S. market – products that have been available to European consumers and others around the world for many years.
Through a series of public hearings, Congress learned that the system for product approvals itself was broken Applications for sunscreen products used safely in other countries for over a decade had been sitting at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the same time period without any action.
So a coalition of health and environmental groups, dermatologists and ingredient manufacturers joined together to reform the system. This effort resulted in the passage of the Sunscreen Innovation Act (SIA), which was co-sponsored by Senators Carper and Coons and Congressman Carney, and signed into law by President Obama on November 26, 2014. Yet as Delawareans head to the beach for the second summer since passage, the applications continue to remain stuck at the FDA.
The FDA inaction is concerning. When coupled with the fact that we are living in a time when skin cancer rates have reached epidemic levels, we should all be alarmed. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer, including melanoma, than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. From 1975-2011, rates of melanoma in young men and women ages 20-39 increased by 34% in men and by 84% in women. According to the Surgeon General, nearly 5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year and one person dies every hour of every day from melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.
The cost to treat skin cancer is over $8 billion, which doesn’t include the pain and suffering for families that lose their loved ones from the disease. The Surgeon General and CDC both regularly call on Americans to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.
The inaction by the FDA is more than a health issue – it is also a significant economic issue. Ashland Inc. is one of the global companies that make ingredients for sunscreens. We make products in the U.S. that are currently exported because they cannot be sold domestically. One may ask, why should companies continue to produce products in the U.S. that cannot be sold here? Additionally, can U.S. companies invest in research and development here when there is no predictable timeframe for product review and approval?
The FDA’s continued inaction runs counter to the Obama Administration’s commitment to accelerate research as recently evidenced through the “Cancer Moonshot Initiative” led by Vice President Joe Biden. Resulting from Senator Tom Carper’s efforts, the Biden Moonshot director is investigating the issue and the recently confirmed FDA administrator has agreed to review the situation.
The FDA has a real opportunity to advance skin cancer prevention for the 5 million Americans who are expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2016. It would be hard to dispute that Delaware and U.S. consumers have waited long enough.