Sunscreen Safety Update
Over the years we have learned that excessive sun exposure causes an acceleration of skin aging and significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens were originally developed to protect from sunburns caused by ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer comprises 50% of all cancers. Ultraviolet rays are linked to early skin aging and skin cancers.
Although sunscreens are highly recommended, there is little evidence that sunscreens alone prevent the development of skin cancers. The first line of prevention is avoidance: staying in the shade and wearing sun-protective clothing and hats. Avoiding peak daytime ultraviolet exposure and reducing the amount of time exposure can help reduce early skin aging and skin cancers.
The range of SPFs (4 to 100) in a wide variety of sprays, lotions, creams, oils and sticks, along with misleading terms such as "broad-spectrum coverage" and labels claiming various number of hours of protection, leads to much confusion as to what really is the best sunscreen to use.
Are these sunscreens safe, and are we getting the protection we need? Some studies show an increase risk of cancer in people who use sunscreens with an SPF greater than 50. Some speculate that this may be due to false security that the higher SPF may give consumers a license to stay in the sun longer. Others speculate that it may be related to harmful effects of the chemical breakdown of these high SPF sunscreens.
The FDA will enforce long overdue sunscreen labeling guidelines this year. The use of the term "broad spectrum" will be limited to products that have undergone testing and show evidence of protection against UVA and UVB. The terms "sunblock," "sweat proof" and "waterproof" will no longer be allowed on sunscreen labels. In addition, all labels will state that protective clothing and hats are recommended.
The bottom line is that we need to take all measures to protect preserve our skin from the damaging effects of the sun.