Winston Medical Center warns of sunscreen changes and skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Summer is here and it is very important to take care of the body’s largest organ when venturing outside. Dark skinned individuals often do not choose to protect his or her skin because they don’t think they are at risk of getting skin cancer. Dr. Sam Suttle, physician with Louisville Medical Associates, warns to always wear sun screen regardless of age, color, or history.

Dr. Suttle said that he would recommend people protecting themselves by following a few simple tips:

Avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day, wear protective clothing, wearing sun screen year-round with a SPF of at least 30 and remember to apply to places on the body such as lips, ears, back of the neck and hands. “Always reapply your sunscreen after swimming, exercising, or when you have sweated,” warned Dr. Suttle.

The American Cancer Society website, www.cancer.org states that people need to be aware of the sunscreen he or she purchases. It is important to read the sunscreen labels. This is the first year that the US Food and Drug Administration placed new labeling requirements not only on sunscreen but also on makeup, moisturizer, and lip balm. Taking the time to learn about the labels can help you protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer.

What’s new?

“Broad spectrum” claims must be backed by testing. The new rules will make it clear to consumers whether sunscreens are “broad spectrum,” meaning they protect against both UVB and UVA rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn. But UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging. Now, only products that pass a test can be labeled “broad spectrum.”

Low SPFs must include a warning. Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 must now also include a warning. It reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.” This same warning must appear on sunscreens that are not broad spectrum.

“Water resistant” does not mean “waterproof.” No sunscreens are waterproof or “sweat proof” and manufacturers are no longer allowed to claim that they are. If a product’s front label makes claims of being water resistant, it must specify whether it lasts for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.

Products can’t over-promise. Sunscreens may not claim instant protection or protection for more than 2 hours without reapplying. They may not use the term “sun block.”

Take these steps to stay sun-safe:

Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Be sure to reapply at least every 2 hours, as well as after swimming or sweating.

Cover up. When you are out in the sun, wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV light.

Seek shade. Limit your direct exposure to the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.

Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. Both can cause serious long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer.

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