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Overseas sunscreens offer better protection. FDA could help the US catch up, Blumenthal says

Sunplay sunscreen lotion SPF 130 (2nd L) and Nivea Sun Protect and refresh spy 50, for sale in Hong Kong on July 09, 2017. Regulatory bodies in Europe and Australia have adopted UVA testing guidelines and measurement standards, and capped the SPF of sunscreens at 50+. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may do the same, but hasn’t to date.
Antony Dickson
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South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Sunplay sunscreen lotion SPF 130 (2nd L) and Nivea Sun Protect and refresh spy 50, for sale in Hong Kong on July 09, 2017. According to the skin cancer foundation, although UVA protection is also important (UVA not only accelerates skin aging, but contributes to and may even initiate skin cancers), SPFs mainly measure UVB protection. Regulatory bodies in Europe and Australia have adopted UVA testing guidelines and measurement standards, and capped the SPF of sunscreens at 50+. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may do the same, but hasn’t to date.

Federal regulators have not approved a new ultraviolet ray filter for sunscreens in more than two decades. Now, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wants the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly to approve newer ingredients that countries in Europe and Asia have already greenlit.

“The United States Congress, for once, actually has acted to empower the FDA to approve more of the ingredients that can help protect us,” said Blumenthal, a Democrat. “The FDA is leaving Americans unnecessarily unprotected against the most severe kind of cancer and the most common melanoma.”

Some of the newer ingredients, which have been used in sunscreens overseas for more than 20 years, are more effective against rays linked to skin cancer, he said.

Blumenthal said the FDA could do more to protect Americans’ health by accelerating the effort to approve newer ingredients that filter UV rays in order to offer more protection from the sun.

“The FDA says that they need more data from the companies in this country, but that excuse fails utterly to justify these delays because the FDA could order the companies to provide the data,” Blumenthal said. “It has simply been on the sidelines.”

Blumenthal sent a letter to the FDA demanding they move quickly to approve newer UV filters while also completing testing. He gave the agency until July 26 to respond.

In an email to KFF Health News, the FDA recently defended how it reviews sunscreens, saying that Americans “rely on sunscreens as a key part of their skin cancer prevention strategy, which makes satisfactory evidence of both safety and effectiveness of these products critical for public health."

Cassandra Basler oversees Connecticut Public’s flagship daily news programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She’s also an editor of the station’s limited series podcast, 'In Absentia' and producer of the five-part podcast Unforgotten: Connecticut’s Hidden History of Slavery.

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