New Sunscreen Labeling Will Improve Sun Safety

Wed, 2011-07-20

New Sunscreen Labeling Will Improve Sun Safety

-Clearer Labels Will Help Consumers Limit Exposure to Dangerous Ultraviolet Rays-

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Should your sunscreen have UVA protection, UVB protection or both? What’s best – SPF 30 or SPF 100? With dozens of sunscreen bottles vying for shoppers’ attention in store aisles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally offered a helping hand to aid consumers with these vexing questions and help them answer the most important question of all: which products provide the best protection from dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays?

The FDA is implementing new rules to make it simpler for consumers to tell which sunscreens offer the most protection against the rays that can cause melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Within a year, the new labeling system will be in place to help consumers easily identify broad spectrum products that protect against both kinds of dangerous UV rays – UVA and UVB.

"Limiting sun exposure is one of the few ways consumers can control their risk of developing melanoma," said Timothy J. Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation. "The public has waited years for additional guidance on sunscreens. Clearing up the current confusion will help consumers protect themselves from skin-damaging UV rays."

The Melanoma Research Foundation encouraged the FDA to take action on helping consumers better navigate the broad range of sun protection factor (SPF) values. The rules will limit which sunscreens can be considered protective against skin cancer. To meet the FDA’s labeling standards, sunscreens must have an SPF value of 15 or higher and block both UVA and UVB rays.

The FDA’s new guidance also provides reassurance on the overall safety of sunscreens. Recent reports based on questionable science have generated concerns about the safety of sunscreen ingredients. The FDA statement reinforced the fact that sunscreen ingredients have been safely used for years. On the other hand, there is a clear link between melanoma and UV exposure from sunlight or tanning beds, so it is critical to protect the skin, Turnham said.

The Melanoma Research Foundation recommends people use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, but shoppers should be wary of spending more on sunscreens with the highest SPF values. The FDA is working to restrict the claims sunscreen manufacturers can make at the top end of the spectrum. The FDA has proposed another rule to make "50+" the maximum SPF value on labels.

"There is no need for consumers to shell out extra money to purchase SPF 100 sunscreen – it just doesn’t provide the extra benefit the number implies," Turnham said. "You are better off using a broad-spectrum SPF 30 product and reapplying frequently to get protection for your skin."

An ounce of sunscreen – about the size of a shot glass – is needed to cover your entire body. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, when you are outside, even on cloudy days.

What’s the bottom line on sunscreen?

• Look for both UVA and UVB protection

• Don’t use anything less than SPF 15

• Don’t pay extra for anything higher than SPF 50+

• Reapply, reapply, reapply

Sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect skin from UV rays. Wearing protective clothing and seeking shade also are effective techniques, particular when the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. More sun safety tips are available at http://www.melanoma.org/learn-more/melanoma-101/prevention-sun-safety.

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About Melanoma

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types. In fact, with a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 69,000 Americans were expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2010, resulting in 8,700 deaths or one person every hour. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.

About Melanoma Research Foundation

The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent, national organization devoted to melanoma in the United States. Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma. The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure. The MRF’s website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers. More information is available at www.melanoma.org.