April 10th, 2012 • Posted by Shana Irish • Permalink
Every year, United States dermatologists diagnose more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most preventable cause of skin cancer. But skin cancer numbers may be on the decline, thanks to recent action by The American Academy of Dermatology Association and the FDA.
What causes skin cancer?
There are two types of ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun: ultraviolet A, or UVA, and Ultraviolet B, or UVB. Both types of solar rays have been shown to contribute to skin cancer.
UVB rays are the rays responsible for sunburn, think B = burning rays. UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate deeper into the skin, causing things like premature aging, think A = aging rays. Overexposure to both types of rays can damage the immune system.
While sunscreen protects against these rays, The American Academy of Dermatology Association feels that the measuring and labeling of sunscreens has been insufficient in educating people about how its use can prevent skin cancer. Until now, only a sunscreen’s protection against UVB rays has been measured – it’s what a sunscreen’s SPF (sun protection factor) means. The changes the FDA has made include mandating a standard for measuring a sun’s UVA protection as well as UVB.
The changes don’t stop there. The FDA will also be enhancing the information on sunscreen labels. The goal is to educate Americans on ways to avoid skin cancer and guide them to the products that will help protect them from the harmful rays of the sun.
This marks the first time the FDA has defined in writing what testing is required for a particular sunscreen to be able to be labeled “broad-spectrum,” which means that the sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays. To pass the test, a sunscreen must block a minimum percentage of both UVA and UVB rays. Any products that fail to meet the Broad Spectrum guidelines or have an SPF of 2 to 14 must include a warning that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. It is also the first time that brands will be permitted to advertise their capability to reduce a user’s risk of skin cancer.
These new FDA regulations also mandate that sunscreen product labels include information that informs the public about the dangers of sun exposure and proper protection. These labels will explain that sunscreen is only one weapon in the fight against skin cancer and elucidate other ways for people to limit UV exposure, like seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses, and avoiding tanning beds.
The FDA’s new regulations are based on scientific data reviewed and submitted by the Academy in 2007. These changes are expected to take place within the next 12 months across all sunscreen products.
Meanwhile, if you're someone who's been affected by sun damaged skin already, THE SKIN SPA may be able to help reduce the appearance of sun spots, as well as fine lines and other imperfections.