It is well known that sun exposure leads to skin damage. The skin damage raises the risk of skin cancer and premature aging. Sadly, despite this knowledge, the rate of skin cancer is growing rapidly. Melanoma, the most serious (dangerous) type of skin cancer, has had it's incidence (the number of cases in a given year in the group of people studied) increase. In fact, the number of cases are doubling every 10 years. Melanoma is the most common cancer in the U.S. It is thought 1 in 5 persons will be diagnosed with a skin cancer in their lifetime.
Protecting everyone with sunscreen when they are sun exposed is an excellent way to help prevent skin damage. Reading labels on sunscreen can be difficult. The SPF on the label stands for sun protection factor. Originally, we were all informed that an SPF of 16 was twice as protective as an 8 -- it turns out this was not true. In fact, these are the new regulations:
1. The highest SPF you should see will be "50+".
2. There is no evidence that says that an SPF greater than 50 is more sun protective.
3. Sunscreens with SPF greater than 15 are more sun protective than those with an SPF of less than 15.
4. "Broad Spectrum" sun screens will need to have both UVA protection (against skin cancer and premature skin aging) and UVB protection (against sunburn).
5. The terms "waterproof" and "sweatproof" will no longer be allowed.
1. Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection whenever you are being exposed to the sun.
2. Look for products with an SPF of 30 or above. But realize it is not likely you are getting more (or much more) sun protection if the SPF is over 30. If the higher-than-SPF-30 sunscreen is more expensive, consider purchasing the SPF 30 sunscreen instead.
3. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Reapply more often if sweating or in and out of water.
4. Covering up with sunglasses, hat, and covering exposed skin helps limit sun damage.
5. Limit sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
6. For infants less than 6 months of age: a. avoid sun exposure, b. dress infants with a hat and long clothing if out in the sun, c. if adequate clothing and shade are not possible, apply a small amount of SPF 15-30 sunscreen to small areas (exposed areas on the face, arms, or legs).
Resources used: FDA report and 'FDA's Sunscreen Recommendations' in October 2014 Contemporary Pediatrics by Mary Beth Nierengarten, MA.