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Wednesday, June 17, 2015
what you need to know about sunscreen and skin cancer
Do you know what broad spectrum means? What about SPF? No need to be ashamed if you can't answer those questions, because you're not alone.
In a survey of 114 people, a mere 7 percent knew that "broad spectrum" on a sunblock label means it defends against early aging.
"There are hundreds of options when [people] go in front of an aisle, so it's hard to know what's best," says Roopal Kundu, a dermatologist at Northwestern University who led the study. It was published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology.
But a large portion of those surveyed had a family member with skin cancer — and they still lacked understanding. "I thought they would be more knowledgeable," Kundu told Shots.
Tip: To know if a sunscreen helps ward off skin cancer, look for the term 'broad spectrum' on the label. That means the product offers protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays — two types of radiation that are both associated with cancer. An SPF of 15 or higher is recommended, but the FDA says there's no evidence that SPFs of higher than 50 provide additional protection.
So what do consumers spring for when buying a sun lotion?
Nearly half of those surveyed said a high SPF value is most influential while browsing. That's important, Kundu says, but just not enough.
"This tells us there's a heavy relianceon SPF values, which only account for UVB rays; it has no affect on UVAs," she says. And UVAs Kundu argues, are possibly more worrisome than UVBs. UVAs can penetrate clouds and windows. They are present year round and throughout the day, and they penetrate the skin more deeply than UVBs.
Exposure to UVAs is a major cause of skin aging, wrinkling and tanning, while UVBsare the chief culprit behind sunburns. However, both types of radiation play roles in the development of skin cancers including melanoma, basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. npr