It seems that the U.S. is behind Canada and Europe when it comes to labeling sunscreen products. In the past, manufacturers were not required to disclose how well their products protect against cancer-causing ultraviolet A, (UVA) rays. Only the amount of protection against ultraviolet B was required to be on the label. Both types of UV rays cause skin damage, including premature skin aging and skin cancer. UVB primarily causes sunburn while UVA light is more damaging because it penetrates the skin farther, causing wrinkles and other problems.
A beautiful tan is very attractive, but if the one who is working on that tan could only realize the results that might be caused later in life, they might forgo the tan and protect their skin. A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) doesn’t offer insights into UVA protection.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Each year, 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed and treated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, almost 20% of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. While most skin cancers are curable, squamous cell carcenomas kill 2,500 Americans each year, and melanoma kills 8,700 Americans annually, according to the American Cancer Society.
It is important that we protect our youngsters now, because these cancers are developing while they are young. My best friend has had all three types of skin cancers, and she must consistently go for biopsies and treatment. She is very fair, and has blue eyes; her dermatologist told her that this all began when she was a child.
The labeling of sunscreen as sun block implies inaccurate information that makes claims the protection will offer more than 2 hours of protection, or is water-proof or sweat-proof -without indicating the length of time of full protection. Experts recommend using a sunscreen of at least 50 SPF. Studies show that some of the sunscreens that are most protective are not necessarily the most expensive ones.
Until the new labeling is available, it is recommended that you slather on a glob of sunscreen the size of a golf ball and do so very often. (You’ll go through a tube quickly, but it’s worth it!) Having to deal with skin cancer is not something you want to face, or for your children to have to go through. If you have to be outside, wear a hat, protective clothing, and even take along an umbrella. When swimming, apply that protective lotion religiously.
Safety sunglasses are manufactured that offer 99.9% protection from UVA/UVB/UVC rays. Our eyes must also be protected from the sun at all times; even small children need that protection. Thankfully, glasses have been designed to take care of the risks of exposure to UV rays. Maybe next year we will have full disclosure of the protection we can expect from sunscreens.