May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month – a perfect time to focus on proper sun protection and to educate ourselves on this important and possibly life-saving topic. Worldwide skin cancer rates get higher every year. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 2 million Americans alone are diagnosed with skin cancer annually; Cancer Council Australia, however, reports that Australia has the highest skin cancer incidence rate in the world – nearly four times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.
The Skin Cancer Foundation also reports that approximately 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are due to exposure to UV radiation from the sun, making sun protection of utmost importance in preventing skin cancer.
KNOWLEDGE IS KEY: UNDERSTAND THE FACTS AND LINGO!
UVA (Ultraviolet A): UVA plays a major role in wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other effects of photoaging, as it penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB. UVA damages cells in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. UVA is a contributor of skin cancer.
UVB (Ultraviolet B): UVB is what reddens or sunburns the skin. It also contributes to the development of skin cancer and photoaging. UVB rays are more significant during mid-day in the summer months; however, they can inflict damage to the skin year round – even in winter!
SPF (Sun Protection Factor): SPF is the measurement of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin (ie, an SPF 15 sunscreen is supposed to prevent reddening of the skin 15 times longer than if no sunscreen was worn).
Broad Spectrum: Sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum,” such as all of PRIORI®’s sunscreens, protect against damage from both UVA and UVB rays.
SKIN CANCER FOUNDATION SEAL OF RECOMMENDATION
Sun protection products with this seal have been reviewed by and meet the stringent criteria of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee – a team of experts in the study of the interaction of ultraviolet radiation and the skin.
The Daily Use Seal, which all PRIORI® sunscreens bear, is for sunscreens that are intended to protect for short periods of time (ie, walking to and from car, running errands, etc.). The Daily Use Seal includes a UVA protection requirement. All of PRIORI®’s sunscreens carry this seal of recommendation.
The Active Seal is used for sunscreens that are designed for extended sun exposure, such as outdoor recreational activities, and include both UVA protection and water resistance requirements.
NEW FDA REGULATIONS
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued new rules for sunscreen labeling to help simplify choosing protection from UV radiation. While “broad spectrum” has been used for quite some time for sunscreens, it is not until now that these products are required to meet FDA tests to use this term. Also included in the FDA’s new rules is that the term “waterproof” has been replaced with “water-resistant.”
SPF IS NOT ENOUGH!
Daily SPF protection is an absolute must for protection against skin cancer; no sunscreen, however, can block all UV rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation provides the following tips for further protection against skin cancer:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
In addition to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendations, make sure your sunscreen contains antioxidants to protect against the damaging free radicals that your SPF does not protect against.