Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 21, 2014

Flashback: Members Face Danger From the Sun

Flashback: Members Face Danger From the Sun

In this 1989 photo, aides to Rep. John William “Jack” Buechner, R-Mo., are seen outside (Andrea Mohin/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee takes up legislation that would streamline the approval of new and modern ingredients for sunscreens, we discovered a column from the pages of Roll Call 25 years ago this week.

Back then, this newspaper featured a recurring column called “Capital Health.”

The column a quarter century ago warned of the dangers of unprotected exposure to the sun by members of Congress, featuring a great quote from Dr. Stephen Katz of the National Institutes of Health. As Lucretia Marmon wrote:

Premature aging of the skin and skin cancer are caused by prolonged and intermittent overexposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

And Members of Congress should take care. They might actually be more vulnerable than Americans in general.

Dr. Stephen Katz, chief of dermatology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), says Members are prime candidates for photodamaged skin and skin cancer. Says Katz, ”Congressmen are mostly white. They are more affluent and they vacation more. They are concerned about their looks and likely to prefer a tan. And they probably get their tans during short exposures to the sun.”

Along with this warning comes the good news that smile lines and “aging spots” don’t necessarily come hand-in hand with getting older. And skin cancer can be prevented. Professionals are urging Members to get smart and cover-up.

As for the new legislation, Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., said in a statement that the bill “will allow Americans access to the best products on the market and also spur innovation in an area of significant public health importance.”

“With skin cancer being by far the most common form of this terrible disease, it’s important that consumers have access to the latest breakthroughs in sunscreen technology,” Whitfield said.

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