MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program continues to keep the issue of indoor tanning — and its impact on teenagers — in the public eye.
The Moon Shots Program was launched in 2012 to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that significantly reduce cancer deaths. The program brings together teams of researchers and clinicians to mount comprehensive attacks targeting eight cancers.
Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D., professor of Surgical Oncology, medical director of the Melanoma and Skin Center, and co-leader of the Melanoma Moon Shot, co-authored an editorial in the March issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology with colleagues affiliated with four other institutions.
Gershenwald and two patients also were featured in a major New York Times story covering the issue in January.
“Whether it’s communicating with our peers in the health professions or getting the word out through the news media, it’s important that we use all available channels to communicate the elevated skin cancer risks, including melanoma, associated with indoor tanning,” Gershenwald said.
That educational process has emerged as an important component of the prevention flagship project of the Melanoma Moon Shot in collaboration with the Cancer Prevention and Control Platform.
The editorial focuses on a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this past May requiring tanning products used in salons to carry a visible “black box” warning that reads, “Attention: This sunlamp product should not be used on persons under the age of 18 years.” The FDA reclassified indoor tanning devices as Class II medical devices (moderate to high risk), up from the low-risk Class I.
Co-authored with experts from the Northeastern University School of Law, the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx and the Harvard School of Public Health, the editorial urges states to pass legislation banning indoor tanning use by those under the age of 18.
They also encourage physicians to educate policymakers and “continue to provide counseling to teens and their families about avoiding indoor tanning and emphasize the meaning of the black box warning.”
Moon shot surgical and medical oncologists, scientists, behavioral scientists and governmental relations experts were among those who worked with other organizations to achieve a Texas state prohibition on tanning bed use by minors, which took effect in 2013.
Texas became the fourth state to enact such a prohibition. Eleven states have now enacted similar measures, and the momentum continues to build. In July, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to prevent skin cancer that also addresses indoor tanning.