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New requirements for sunscreen Special To The Star-news | Tue, Aug 16 2011 12:00 PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new sunscreen labeling requirements this June that will go into effect by summer 2012. These measures are meant to help consumers make informed decisions as to which sunscreen best suits their needs. UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay reviews the changes you can expect to see on sunscreen labels that are meant to help consumers prevent skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

"Broad spectrum"

Sunscreen regulations that previously focused primarily on protection against ultraviolet B (UVB), the type of radiation associated with sunburn, will now focus on protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) as well, the type of radiation associated with skin cancer and early skin aging.

A new "broad spectrum" label will designate sunscreen that provides UVA protection that is proportionate to its UVB protection. The FDA recommends using a Broad Spectrum SPF 15 (or higher) sunscreen, along with other sun protection measures, to reduce the risks associated with both types of radiation.

Non- broad spectrum and SPF 2-14 sunscreen will include a warning that states these products only help to prevent sunburn, and do not provide effective protection against skin cancer or early skin aging.

Overstating effectiveness

Since all sunscreens eventually wash off, misleading words such as "waterproof" and "sweat proof" will no longer be permitted on sunscreen labels. Sunscreen that is water-resistant can be labeled as such, but must indicate the length of time for which it remains effective while swimming or sweating (either 40 or 80 minutes). Additionally, the word "sunblock" cannot be used, since sunscreens minimize the damaging effects of the sun but don't completely protect against all damage.

Inclusion of drug facts

All sunscreens will be required to include Drug Facts information on the label, although many labels already include this information. It is important to note that this measure is being taken to keep the consumer informed, and the FDA is not questioning the safety of ingredients used in sunscreens.

UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay reminds consumers to continue using the sunscreens that they currently have, since these products are still considered to be safe and effective when used as directed. In fact, some sunscreens already meet many of the new FDA requirements, so the biggest change to the product may be the label itself. For the most effective protection against the sun's radiation, use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and reapply at least every two hours, limit your time outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. , and wear protective clothing and hats to cover your skin.

This article was brought to you by UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay. For information about how we treat many types of cancer including skin malignancies, call (619) 502-7730 or visit http://radonc.ucsd.edu/ southbay.

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