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Skin Cancer, Sunscreen and FDA Guidelines

Updated on April 10, 2012
Stages of Melanoma
Stages of Melanoma

OMG, who does not like kicking back on the beach, ocean waves, in the backyard, feeling the soothing warmth of the sun. One tends to forget it is a star that will one day end. We also tend to tune out the fact that its glowing warmth is dangerous. In fact, the tanner you become the more damage you had done in the sun. Damage to your skin that is irreparable.

Just a few years ago, cosmetic creams did not have the SPF value attached to them, now they do. Most doctors do not think they, alone, provide enough protection from the sun rays. In fact, the FDA suggests that at minimum, one should have a cream with SPF 15 or greater and one labeled "broad spectrum" to protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Most Caucasians should be wearing at least a SPF 30.

The other guidelines from the FDA also note that before you suntan, apply the cream at least 15 min. before sunning to allow it to be absorbed into your skin. Apply at least one ounce (about the size of a small shot glass). Use only products labeled "broad spectrum". Products may not have the words, "sun block, waterproof or sweat proof". Therefore, look for products with "water resistant", which means they repel water for 40-80 minutes. The FDA suggests you apply sunscreen every two hours and that there is no truth to "all day protection". Stay out of tanning beds,which are incubators for skin cancer because of their intensity.

Do not use sunscreens with only one of the UVA or UVB ingrediants, UVB prevents skin burning while UVA prevents aging of the skin, which is much deeper. Thus, if you use a cream with SPF 50 and only UVB, you have the false security thinking all is fine because you did not burn, yet your skin still was damaged because there was no UVA protection. By not applying enough of your SPF broad spectrum cream (at least an ounce) you unknowingly reduce the SPF value from an SPF of 30 to 15, in reality, maybe less. So, the amount applied is also important. Having a cream of 60 SPF is only a little better than one at 50. Once the SPF 50 mark is passed, there are diminishing returns.

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