How The FDA’s Sunscreen Skepticism Burns Americans

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webnexttech | How The FDA's Sunscreen Skepticism Burns Americans
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Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin “The federal government is doing its best to keep effective sunscreens out of the hands of ordinary … [+] Americans,” writes Pipes. getty Every day, nearly 10,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer. The good news is that applying sunscreen can substantially reduce a person’s risk of getting skin cancer. The bad news is that the federal government is doing its best to keep effective sunscreens out of the hands of ordinary Americans. Unlike most developed countries, the United States classifies sunscreen as a drug, not a cosmetic. That means sunscreens are subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which does not have the best track record on swiftly approving new therapies. The agency hasn’t approved a new type of sunscreen since 1999. We’re lathering up with the same stuff we did a quarter-century ago—despite advancements in the science behind preventing sunburns, or worse. It doesn’t have to be this way. In Europe, countries classify sunscreen as a cosmetic. This classification has given companies the freedom to create more effective products—with much lower barriers to reaching the market. Lawmakers from both parties are pushing to reclassify sunscreen as a cosmetic in the United States. Doing so would relax the regulatory barriers that are preventing Americans from purchasing newer, more effective sunblock. MORE FOR YOU WWE NXT Battleground Results Winners And Grades From The UFC Apex Could The Rockets Land Alex Sarr That Sweet 2TB Galaxy Black Xbox Series X Will Be Mine, Cosmically Sunscreen works by blocking potentially-harmful ultraviolet rays from penetrating skin using one of two kinds of filter. Physical filters—like the thick, white zinc oxide traditionally associated with sunblock—literally stop light from hitting your skin. Chemical filters, meanwhile, neutralize UV rays before they have a chance to do harm. While physical filters have stayed largely the same for decades, chemical filters are getting better every year. The more effective chemical filters become, the less need for thick, sticky physical ingredients. Manufacturers can add chemical filters to body lotions and face creams, things people put on all the time—not just for trips to the beach. These types of sunscreen don’t just make for a more pleasant experience. They also increase the odds that people will wear sunscreen all the time, not just during traditional summer activities—something the American Academy of Dermatology recommends but only 13.5% of Americans currently do. As George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok observed last month, “Many dermatologists argue that American sunscreens are far behind the scientific frontier, and they worry that the Food and Drug Administration’s decades long delay in approving new sunscreens for purchase in the U.S. is contributing to rising rates of skin cancer.” Tabarrok further noted that most American sunscreens are only effective against the type of UV rays we encounter on particularly sunny days—the kind that cause sunburn. But there are other, more dangerous rays that the sun constantly emits, even on cold and cloudy days. So, even if an American did wear sunscreen every day, there’s a chance they would still be exposed to these more harmful UV rays. That’s one of the reasons most American sunscreens do not meet European safety standards. It’s rare for Europe to lead the United States on new drug approvals. In February, the RAND Corporation found that, thanks to our country’s more market-oriented healthcare system, “most new drugs are sold first in the United States [and] the United States has access to the largest share of new drugs overall.” But the FDA prides itself on its cautious, methodical approval process. To gain approval for a new drug, companies must navigate three phases of clinical trials, a process that can take a decade or more. That process may make sense for experimental drugs that carry a heavy risk of dangerous side effects. But it doesn’t make sense for sunscreen. That’s why lawmakers are pushing to reclassify sunscreen as a cosmetic. It’s a testament to how logical and long-overdue this reform is that such unlikely bedfellows as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., are on the same side of the issue. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, and skin cancer incidence is on the rise. Making it easier for Americans to access more effective sunscreens would help reverse this trend. Too often, medical progress is slow coming. It takes decades of research and billions of dollars to bring new drugs to market. With sunscreen, lawmakers and regulators have a rare opportunity to make significant health gains in the near term with very little effort. Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Sally Pipes Following Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions

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