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Tanning Bed Cancer Cases Under Investigation

Product Liability Lawyer and personal injury attorney represents plaintiffs nationwide in Tanning Bed Cancer Cases

Tanning beds are now “known to cause cancer,” at a far higher rate than previously warned. The popular devices join tobacco, asbestos, radon, plutonium, and radiation as substances known by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a subdivision of the WHO, to cause cancer.

Its findings state that the risk of cutaneous melanoma is increased by 75% when the use of tanning devices starts before age 30. This is significant because the indoor tanning industry has often claimed that tanning beds are safe because the bulbs have more UVA radiation than UVB, says American Cancer Society Deputy Chief Medical Officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD.

IARC:  Research on Tanning Bed Cancer

IARC (The International Agency for Research on Cancer ) is a subdivision of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer. The most widely used system for classifying carcinogens, worldwide, is that of the IARC. In the past 30 years, the IARC has evaluated the cancer-causing potential of more than 900 likely candidates, placing them into one of the following groups:

  1. Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
  2. Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans
  3. Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans
  4. Group 3: Unclassifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans
  5. Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans

Perhaps not surprisingly, based on how hard it can be to test these candidate carcinogens, most are listed as being of probable, possible, or unknown risk. Only a few more than 100 are classified as “carcinogenic to humans.”

The IARC has added tanning beds to this list. Its findings state that the risk of cutaneous melanoma is increased by 75% when the use of tanning devices starts before age 30. This is significant because the indoor tanning industry has often claimed that tanning beds are safe because the bulbs have more UVA radiation than UVB, says American Cancer Society Deputy Chief Medical Officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD.

“This report puts to rest the argument that tanning with UVA light is safe,” Lichtenfeld said in a statement. “As noted by the IARC report, UVA light is also a class I carcinogen and should be avoided.”

The IARC added that the scientific evidence linking indoor tanning to the deadly skin cancer melanoma was “sufficient and compelling,” and Dr. Vincent Cogliano, a member of the 20-member committee which published the report, said “studies conducted over the past decade provide ‘an abundance of evidence’ of the causal link.”

 Tanning Beds Linked to Skin Cancer

Some 132,000 cases of malignant melanoma (the most fatal kind of skin cancer) and over two million cases of other skin cancers occur worldwide each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer. In the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, about 62,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008, and about 8,000 people died of the disease.

A study conducted in Norway and Sweden showed a significant increase in the risk of malignant melanoma among women who had regularly used sunbeds. The IARC-WHO report found that the risk of skin cancer jumps 75% for those who start using tanning beds prior to age 30.

Tanning Beds & Traumatic Eye Injury

UV light can cause significant damage to the human eye, as well as leading to tanning bed cancer. The effects of UV on the eye include cataracts, pterygium (a white colored growth over the cornea) and inflammation of the eye such as photokeratitis and photo conjunctivitis and ocular melanoma (cancers of the eye).

Ocular melanoma is a lethal and very rare disease of the eye. Many people die from it, especially when it spreads to the liver, a common complication. Around 2,500 people are diagnosed every year in the United States.

Other Ailments of the Eye due to UV-Radiation Overexposure:

  • Cataracts – a clouding of the lens in the eye that impairs vision;
  • Pterygium – a white coloured growth over the cornea
  • Photokeratitis – A burning of the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) by UV-B rays. Also called radiation keratitis or snowblindness, the condition typically occurs at high altitudes on highly reflective snow fields or, less often, with a solar eclipse. Artificial sources of UVB, including suntanning beds, can also cause photokeratitis.
  • Photoconjunctivitis – Similar to photokeratitis, except that photoconjunctivitis refers to an inflammation and/or burning of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and eye socket, due to over-exposure to UV-radiation.

What is the basis for a Tanning Bed Cancer Lawsuit?

Negligence – Liability is based upon the manufacturer’s failure to act as a reasonable and prudent manufacturer under the same or similar circumstances. In this case, it appears that the manufacturers of Genentech, Inc. may have been negligent in the advertising, reporting, and labelling of the product.

Strict Liability – Liability is based not any particular fault but rather on the fact that the product is “defective”. Violations of the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act are evaluated by a “strict liability” standard.  This means that the burden of proof as against the manufacturer is lower than it might otherwise be, under other legal theories of fault.

Intentional Misrepresentation – A likely cause of action in the tanning bed litigation will be the intentional misrepresentation of the product’s safety and/or likelihood of its bringing about malignant melanoma in users of indoor tanning beds.

Wrongful Death – A cause of action arises where a product kills a consumer. The case is brought on behalf of the estate by an appointed representative, which is usually a close family member. The amount of damages available varies from state to state.

Tanning Bed Cancer Lawsuits

Carcinogenic – The term carcinogen refers to any substance, radionuclide or radiation that is an agent directly involved in the promotion of cancer or in the increase of its propagation. Carcinogens may increase the risk of getting cancer by altering cellular metabolism or damaging DNA directly in cells, which interferes with biological processes, and induces the uncontrolled, malignant division, ultimately leading to the formation of tumors.

Malignant – (of a disease) very virulent or infectious; (of a tumor) tending to invade normal tissue or to recur after removal; cancerous. Contrasted with benign (“not harmful”).

Melanoma – Melanoma occurs when melanocytes (pigment cells) become malignant. Most pigment cells are in the skin; when melanoma starts in the skin, the disease is called cutaneous melanoma. Melanoma may also occur in the eye (ocular melanoma or intraocular melanoma).

Types of Tanning Bed Cancer

Cutaneous Melanoma (cancers of the skin) : Superficial spreading melanoma accounts for approximately 50% of all head and neck melanomas. The growth of superficial spreading melanoma is biphasic, with an initial radial growth phase, when growth is confined to the epidermis, followed by a vertical phase, when melanocytes invade deeply into the papillary and reticular dermis.

Lentigo Maligna : Approximately 20% of head and neck melanomas are of the lentigo maligna (LM) type. These typically are flat melanomas with a long radial growth phase. Lentigo maligna are regarded as the least invasive form of melanoma. These lesions commonly arise in sun-exposed areas, particularly the face, neck, and extremities.

Nodular Melanomas – Nodular melanomas are aggressive lesions that have only a vertical growth phase. These lesions make up 15-30% of head and neck melanomas.

The Dangers of UV Light

“Getting a good base” – There is a widespread false belief that a tan acquired using a sunbed will offer good skin protection against sunburn for a holiday in a sunny location. In reality, a tan acquired using a sunbed offers only limited protection against sunburn from solar UV. It has been estimated that a sunbed tan offers the same protective effect as using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of only 2-3.

The size of the skin area exposed – Modern ‘clam-type’ sunbeds and canopies can expose more skin area to UV than outdoor situations, therefore increasing the health risk. People are more sensitive to UV-induced damage from this “all-over” tanning.

Exposure time and intervals between tanning sessions – Reasonable sunbed use includes keeping to recommended exposure times (which depends on the type of machine used) and having sufficiently long breaks between tanning sessions. While the FDA requires a 24-hour period, general scientific consensus is that at least 48 hours are needed between tanning sessions for repair of UV-induced DNA damage in skin cells

Increase in the number of unsupervised commercial sunbeds – Without trained staff and adequate health care advice, the potential for harm to the uninformed consumer is much greater. This, combined with competitive pricing strategies such as unlimited sessions within a specific time frame, increases the likelihood of skin damage and tanning bed cancer.

High intensity of UV output – Some machines have the capacity to emit very high levels of UV, many times stronger than the midday summer sun in most countries.  For example, 15 minutes in a high-powered tanning bed can expose one to as much UV-radiation as 8 hours on a Long Island, NY beach.

In a largely unregulated industry where training of staff is not mandatory, as mentioned above, the power of these tanning beds increases one’s health risks considerably.

Joe Lyon is a Cincinnati, Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer. If you or a loved one have questions about your legal rights following a diagnosis of cancer and tanning bed use, please contact The Lyon Firm for a free and confidential consultation (800) 513-2403 regarding tanning bed cancer risks. 

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