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Monday
Jun112012

Is Your Sunscreen Protecting You From Skin Cancer? Maybe Not

This may be business as usual for the FDA, but consumers deserve better. Just in time for summer the FDA announced it will delay scheduled implementation of new sunscreen labeling rules because manufacturers said they were having a hard time meeting the deadline. Among the new stricter rules, the FDA was set to bar use of the term “broad spectrum” for products that do not meet a government test for protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It turns out sunscreen manufacturers have been riding roughshod over consumer expectations; the claims on sunscreen bottles are not tightly regulated.

While most of us think sunscreen prevents cancer, it technically prevents sunburn, which is not the only cause of sun-related skin cancer.

Sunscreen use has sky-rocketed since the 1970s--when baby oil and foil-wrapped album covers created legions of dangerously tan American teens--but as sunscreen use has increased so has the rate of incidence of the most deadly skin cancer, melanoma. And even the most common type, squamous cell skin cancer, is on the rise--representing one third of all new cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

In a review of evidence, acccording to consumer watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG), the FDA said that the available clinical studies “do not demonstrate that even [broad spectrum products with SPF greater than 15] alone reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.”   The agency also said that it is “not aware of any studies examining the effect of sunscreen use on the development of melanoma.”  hmmmm.... this does not jibe with consumer perceptions.

Here, read about the EWG's list of good and bad sunscreens, including more on a common ingredient that may promote breast cancer.

Are you getting the SPF that's on the label? It's all in how you apply. Click here to find out how.

Click here for a look at the EWG's top rated sunscreens, and help us find the most elegant brands.

FDA Sunscreen Crackdown....continued.

So why doesn't sunscreen work? One widely recognized problem is that sunscreens encourage people to spend more time in the sun, absorbing more carcinogenic UV rays overall. But a darker issue exists: Inferior sunscreens with poor UVA protection that have dominated the market for 30 years, according to the EWG, which publishes an annual sunscreen update (Sunscreens 2012that rates sunscreens for safety and efficacy.

While many sunscreens effectively prevent sunburn, they do not provide as strong a barrier to skin cancer. And some that contain a Vitamin A derivative called Retinyl Palmitate, may even promote skin cancer, according to documents from the National Toxicology Program, the interagency governmental program employing toxicologists and molecular biologists to evaluate the safety of chemicals in the public realm. Since this government report was made public in January 2011, the EWG has been advocating for action on Retinyl Palmitate by the FDA.

In lab tests, the NTP found that sun-exposed mice developed cancerous lesions faster when wearing cream with Retinyl Palmitate than when wearing cream without Retinyl Palmitate. According to the EWG, fully 25% of all sunscreens and cosmetics that carry sunscreen factors (SPFs) including moisturizers and foundation contain Retinyl Palmitate, essentially magnifying the so-called sunscreens' potential to cause skin cancer. Quips the EWG, "It’s an ironic twist for an industry already battling studies that have questioned whether their products protect against skin cancer."

We are fans of irony, folks, but not when it comes to sunscreen.

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