• Lori Boyajian O’Neill: Learn the new labeling language for sunscreens

  • Sunscreens have come under intense scrutiny in recent years and now the FDA has implemented new rules to protect consumers.

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  • Sunscreens have come under intense scrutiny in recent years and now the FDA has implemented new rules to protect consumers.
    These rules are designed to address growing concern among physicians and public health policy groups that sunscreen products may not be as effective as advertised and that labels may be misleading. Sunscreen and labeling, what do you know? T or F?
    1. SPF 8 provides protection against skin cancer.
    2. SPF greater than 50 is better than SPF 30.
    3. Waterproof sunscreen is better than water resistant.
    First, some info about the rules. You will now see sunscreens with the label “broad spectrum coverage.” This means that the product protects against both main types of sun rays, UVA and UVB. UVA is implicated in aging and skin cancer and UVB causes superficial skin burns.
    Sun protection factor, SPF, labeling has changed. Products with SPF below 15 cannot be labeled as protecting the skin from cancer or aging. The label can only tout protection against sunburn. Basically don't waste your money on those products. SPF should be between 15-50. SPF higher than 50 may not be more protective and likely will mislead consumers. Further, the word “sunblock” has been prohibited.
    Sunscreen must be reapplied to be effective. Water and sweat wash away sunscreen. Toweling rubs away sunscreen. You are not as protected as you may think by products labeled “waterproof.” New rules ban the use of the claim, “waterproof.” Labels can only claim “water resistant.” Manufacturers are required to advise consumers to reapply either every 40 or 80 minutes.
    There are many topical products touting sunscreen protection but creams and lotions are best. Sprays, although still on the market in the United States, are not recommended by most physicians. Sprays are universally applied in inadequate amounts. Further, sprays can be inhaled and may cause respiratory distress. Sprays may very likely be banned in the future.
    Many studies point out that consumers often do not apply sunscreens properly. The greatest problem is that not enough of the product is applied and reapplied. It is recommended that an amount of cream or lotion about the size of a golf ball be applied and repeated regularly according to the product directions.
    There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and the deadliest, melanoma. Of the million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually 76,000 are melanoma. Yet, it accounts for 9,000 of the 12,000 deaths from skin cancer annually-a whopping 75 percent. Melanoma is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation, primarily from the sun and tanning beds.
    Most melanoma can be prevented by taking basic sun protection precautions. Limited sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. decreases risk. One bad sunburn in childhood can double the risk for melanoma in adulthood. Clothing including hats, shirts and pants can be protective. Special clothing with SPF designation, once only available online is now found in local department stores. Wide-brim hats are good and better with neck drapes. Golfers should consider gloves for both hands.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are preferred. The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) recommends an SPF 30 or higher, generous application 30 minutes prior to going outdoors and frequent reapplication. Sounds simple, but when you are having fun it is an unwelcome intrusion in the day. Just like skin cancer.
    Answers: 1. F; 2. F; 3. F .
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.

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