“Sun, sun, sun…here it comes.” So goes the 1969 tune from the Beatles “Abbey Road” album, a perennial reminder that when the sun comes (out), we need to slather sunscreen (on).
Here’s what we still know, as echoed by the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide: The FDA has never “finalized” its 1978 sunscreen safety standards, leaving us exposed—in the sun.
Sunscreen report card
I want to share some key highlights from this thorough report, and remind you to seek shade when outside, wear protective clothing and avoid the most direct noontime sun. EWG says…
- There’s no consensus that sunscreens prevent skin cancer.
- There’s some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer for some people.
- There are dozens of high-SPF products—but no proof they’re better.
- Too little sun might be harmful, reducing the body’s vitamin D levels.
- The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed development of cancer.
- Free radicals and other skin-damaging byproducts are in sunscreens.
- Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disrupters.
- Europe has better sunscreens.
- The FDA is still not protecting consumers.
Latest skin cancer statistics
Maybe you thought incidences of skin cancer are declining. EWG notes that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, accounting for nearly half of all cases. The latest statistics raise questions about most effective ways to avoid skin cancer.
- More than two million Americans develop skin cancer each year. (Bikle 2008, Rogers 2010, ACS 2010)
- Skin cancer is five times more prevalent in the U.S.population than breast or prostate cancers. (Stern 2010)
- Even though more people are using sunscreens than ever before, and products are improving in quality, the incidence of skin cancer in the United States and other countries continues to rise. (Aceituno-Madera 2010, Jemal 2008, Osterlind 1992)
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that:
- Sunscreen use may decrease the occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Sunscreen use has no demonstrated influence on basal cell carcinoma.
- In intentional sun exposure situations such as staying outdoors for long periods of time, sunscreen use may increase the risk of melanoma. (IARC 2001a, Autier 2009)
Please read EWG’s comprehensive report, for an informed consumer is a better protected consumer. Find out where your sunscreen ranks, for it’s better to be safe than sunscreen sorry.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++(Photo courtesy: NASA)