Sunscreen 101

Sunburn, skin cancer and the use of sunscreens are common concerns for parents. Recent FDA guidelines support the benefits of using sunscreen in conjunction with other sun protection measures to decrease the risk of skin cancers, premature aging of the skin and to help prevent sunburn.

Proposed FDA guidelines support all sunscreens protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause aging and UVB rays burning. Both types have been implicated in damage and the accumulation of ionizing radiation that leads to skin cancers. These guidelines also indicate whether a product is water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes based on testing. The maximum rating will be SPF 50+ and to be listed as broad spectrum the SPF must be at least 15. The enactment of these standards has been delayed until winter 2012.

The key is to use a product that is SPF 30 or greater with reapplication every 3 hours.

Some concerns have been raised about compounds in sunscreens. Overall the risk of any of the ingredients is much less than the risk of not using sunscreen. Other concerns have been raised about sunscreen decreasing Vitamin D levels. Studies do not support this. Those who use sunscreen actually go out in the sun more and have higher levels of Vitamin D.

Every American has a 1 in 5 risk to develop skin cancer during their lifetime. The current lifetime risk in the US of developing invasive melanoma is 1 in 58. Skin cancer rates are on the rise and sunscreen use has been shown to lower this risk. The highest groups at risk are women and people with fair skin. Everyone, especially those in these at risks, should use sunscreen.

Throughout the year consider using sunscreen as a moisturizer and remember to do full body exams, including your scalp to look for any skin changes that warrant seeing your doctor. Awareness and prevention are the best medicines.