Monday, June 20, 2011

New Rules for Sunscreen Labels from the FDA

When you walk down the sunscreen aisle at the drug store, the variety of products can seem endless. Each brand makes different claims about its ability to block the sun, stand up to sweat and swimming, or protect you while you tan.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released new regulations for sunscreens that will set standard guidelines to measure the effectiveness of sunscreen products. These new guidelines will go into effect next year in hopes of assisting consumers with the task of choosing a sunscreen. That, in turn, will hopefully make it easier for you to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful effects.

One of the changes to be implemented will be with the manufacturers of sunscreen, and what they can and cannot claim on their labels. Sunscreen can no longer be marketed as “sunblock.” Products that protect against UVA and UVB radiation will now be labeled “broad spectrum.” Sunscreens that do not protect against both UVA and UVB rays will carry a warning.

If a product wants to claim to lower the risk of cancer, it must be SPF 15 or higher; if they are lower than SPF 15, they will carry a warning. The FDA has also proposed that no product can be labeled higher than SPF 50.

Marketing claims such as “waterproof” or “sweatproof” are now prohibited. Water resistance will now be made in terms of time – 40 minutes or 80 minutes. The FDA is also taking a closer look at sprays. You should always be careful to accurately apply spray-on sunscreen, especially when it is breezy by the pool or at the beach.

It will take one full year for the new regulations to go into effect, so don’t expect to see a total change to that row of sunscreen labels in the drugstore until next summer. To read more details about the FDA regulations, visit

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Dark Side of Tanning

With warmer weather finally here, it’s only natural for young men and women to head to the beaches or their local swimming pools to catch a few hours of sunlight. Having tanned skin often goes hand-in-hand with feeling more attractive and confident.

However, these pool and beach ventures can pose a serious risk to your health. UV radiation exposure from indoor and outdoor tanning is the leading cause of skin cancer. Individuals who tan indoors increase their risk of melanoma by 75%. While skin cancer is a prominent side effect of tanning, other risks are likely, such as burns and injury to the skin, premature aging of the skin, and immune system suppression.

Despite the risks and potential impact that tanning indoors and/or outdoors can do to your skin and health, young women and teens continue to pursue the bronze glow. A recent study showed 86% of tanners recognize that tanning beds could lead to skin cancer.

So why do people continue to tan despite the many health risks that are associated with indoor and outdoor tanning? In a recent survey, 35% of respondents felt peer pressure to be tan. This pressure might arise more intensely when special events are approaching, such as graduation, prom, galas, and even bathing suit season.

It is important that teens understand there are healthy alternatives to tanning. Spray tans, sunless tanning lotions and gels are great alternatives to traditional tanning. These products contain the chemical DHA which acts as a safe tanning ingredient when applied externally on the skin.

Fighting the sunlight’s dangerous UV rays with healthy alternatives to tanning will provide your skin with a more youthful complexion. But most importantly, it will significantly decrease your chance of developing skin cancer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Think Skin Cancer is Rare? Think Again!

On May 14th, I participated in a free skin cancer screening at St. Francis Hospital. The participating physicians and I saw 171 people.

Out of those screened, 31 people had some form of skin cancer, either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Fifty-six others had actinic keratosis, a precancerous growth.

Twenty-four participants had atypical moles. Doctors also found possible melanoma on two people and suggested biopsies for another 53 participants.

And that was just in three hours!

Though skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, it is also the easiest to prevent. Using sunscreen, reducing sun exposure, and getting regular check-ups are a few easy ways to lower your risk.

Remember, the earlier you detect skin cancer, the easier it is to treat.

As skin cancer awareness month comes to a close, don’t forget about the risks. Talk to your dermatologist about a skin cancer examination today!