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Shedding Light on Sunscreen

Shedding Light on Sunscreen

Posted Jan 10, 2013 by Author

Anyone who ever stood before sunscreen-filled shelves looking at bottles making waterproof, sweat-proof, long-time-wear claims knows how overwhelming it is to pick out the right product. Do you simply reach for the highest number? Do you forget it all together?

Wearing sunscreen matters. Prevention and early detection remain key to effectively treating skin cancer. More than 2 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. That number surpasses all other cancers combine, and it’s increased in the past two decades. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun and indoor tanning beds.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with UV-radiation exposure.

In an effort to better inform and protect consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration developed sunscreen labeling practices requiring the following:

  • Only sunscreens that pass FDA tests for protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) may be labeled as “Broad Spectrum”
  • Sunscreens labeled as both Broad Spectrum and SPF 15 or higher, if used regularly, as directed, and along with other sun-protection measures will help prevent sunburn, reduce skin-cancer risks and reduce risks of early skin aging
  • Products with SPF values between 2 and 14 may be labeled as Broad Spectrum, but only products labeled as both Broad Spectrum and with SPF values of 15 or higher may state they reduce skin-cancer risk and early skin aging when used as directed
  • Products with an SPF between 2 and 14 must include a warning that they have not been shown to prevent skin cancer or early skin aging
  • Manufacturers may no longer label their products as waterproof or sweatproof or identify them as sunblock
  • Sunscreens cannot claim to provide protection for more than two hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA-approval
  • Water-resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the product remains effective for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming
  • All sunscreens must include standard “Drug Facts” on the back or side of the container like those that appear on other over-the-counter drugs

Illuminating prevention

The new labeling is scheduled to become effective by December 2012; however, companies with annual sales less than $25,000 will have until December 2013 to comply. Until then, you can look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation, which the organization awards to products that meet its criteria for safety and effectiveness; select a sunscreen SPF 15 or higher; remember to generously apply and reapply, and continue practicing good habits.

Ensure your skin glows because it’s healthy—not because you’ve been exposing it to UV rays. The American Cancer Society’s “Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap” campaign reminds people to do the following when they go outdoors:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and the sensitive skin around them

In addition, avoid “laying out” and visiting tanning beds, reapply sunscreen every two hours and more frequently when swimming and sweating, protect your skin on cloudy days as well, avoid direct sunlight during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and remember that snow, water and sand reflect the sun’s rays and can increase sunburn risk and plan accordingly.

While some worry that sunscreen prevents them from receiving necessary vitamin D from the sun. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention reminds people that the nutrient may be safely obtained through over-the-counter supplements and diet. The FDA has disputed recent studies claiming that sunscreen actually increases cancer risk.

Skin cancer’s threat is real, and a video that went viral in May puts a face on the issue. Dear 16-Year-Old Me, released by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund reminds people to protect and check their skin.

This summer, as you head outdoors, listen to the experts: Wear your sunscreen!