When we baby boomers were babies, our parents were unaware of the dangers of sun exposure. “Laying out” or baking in the sun in hot pursuit of a tan was normal—even if we didn’t tan. Now we’re reminded of our misdeeds by a motley assortment of wrinkles and lines, freckles, moles and worse—skin cancer.
Last year, 1 million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in the United States. This year, a “spot” on my nose was one of them. You, like I, think sunscreen or sunblock is the end-all-to-be-all. But when you slather on sunscreen, did you know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never finalized its 1978 standards for these products, so oversight is sorely lacking?
In 2007, the agency said “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer.” Don’t forget shade, protective clothing and caution, urges the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, (EWG) pledging to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.
Bountiful Baby Boomer Health Website
EWG has released its comprehensive 2010 Sunscreen Guide rating 292 brands and 1,700 products, recommending only one in five of nearly 600 beach and sport sunscreens, the most popular category. Here is EWG’s advice, based on extensive research.
*Avoid sunscreens with hormone-disrupting chemicals like oxybenzone or vitamin A, possibly carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, on sun-exposed skin. Also, don’t choose sprays or powders that may be inhaled, or those with added insect repellent.
*Three out of five products wouldn’t cut the sunscreen mustard in Europe, where standards are higher, because these products don’t have enough UVA protection. (I just ordered from Europe.)
*Don’t let high SPF numbers lure you into a false sense of security, thinking you can stay in the sun longer than you should.
The Work’s Done For You
1) Check out EWG’s list of the top 134 sunscreens. On the other side, the “Hall of Shame” typifies what’s wrong with the sunscreen business, says the organization.
2) DO select cream products with zinc, titanium oxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. You want “broad spectrum protection,” water-resistant for beach, pool or exercise—SPF 30 for beach and pool.
3) As part of your baby boomer health regimen, perform a monthly self-examination in search of any suspicious spots. Keep track of moles: size, shape and color. If you’re suspicious, there’s a reason.
4) Visit your dermatologist annually for a thorough skin once-over, and you’ll build a better boomer: That’s the goal here at “Mind Your Body.”