Glossary
January 16, 2009 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Breaking News from ASCO
June 09, 2006 – Staff Reports
House Call
June 09, 2006 – Jay Thomas, MD, PhD
Breast Cancer & MDS
January 09, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Bookshelf
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Follow-Up Care for Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – The National Cancer Institute
Weighing Prevention Versus Cost
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
Diagnosing Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Susan R. Peck, PhD
Sharing a Lifetime
June 09, 2006
Sunburn Reasons & Remedies
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Inherited Syndromes Link Cancers
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Future Risk for Survivors
June 09, 2006 – Rabiya S. Tuma, PhD
Nature's Spoils
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Discovery of Taxol
June 09, 2006 – Frank Stephenson
Melanoma: The Other Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Picture Not Perfect
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Science of Suncreen
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Planning for Death
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Does Heaven Exist?
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
To Be or Not To Be: Is That the Right Question?
June 09, 2006 – Harvey Max Chochinov, MD PhD
Is It Time to Change the Design of Clinical Trials?
June 09, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Drink Up
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Life Well-Lived
June 09, 2006 – Deborah Lang Hampton
Web Exclusive: Caregivers Often Neglect Their Mental Health
June 09, 2006 – The American Cancer Society
Letters from Our Readers
June 09, 2006
Message from the Editor-at-Large
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Choosing a Counselor
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Tips for Preventing Infection
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer as a Legacy
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Fighting Cancer Together
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Running on Empty
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
The Blame Game
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
People & Places
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Beautiful Day: The Story of a Son's Loss
June 09, 2006 – Kevin Cropp
Surf & Turf
June 09, 2006 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Saving Your Skin
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Confronting Death
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Glossary
January 16, 2009 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Breaking News from ASCO
June 09, 2006 – Staff Reports
House Call
June 09, 2006 – Jay Thomas, MD, PhD
Breast Cancer & MDS
January 09, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Bookshelf
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Follow-Up Care for Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – The National Cancer Institute
Weighing Prevention Versus Cost
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
Diagnosing Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Susan R. Peck, PhD
Sharing a Lifetime
June 09, 2006
Sunburn Reasons & Remedies
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Inherited Syndromes Link Cancers
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Future Risk for Survivors
June 09, 2006 – Rabiya S. Tuma, PhD
Nature's Spoils
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Discovery of Taxol
June 09, 2006 – Frank Stephenson
Melanoma: The Other Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Picture Not Perfect
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Currently Viewing
Science of Suncreen
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Does Heaven Exist?
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
To Be or Not To Be: Is That the Right Question?
June 09, 2006 – Harvey Max Chochinov, MD PhD
Is It Time to Change the Design of Clinical Trials?
June 09, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Drink Up
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Life Well-Lived
June 09, 2006 – Deborah Lang Hampton
Web Exclusive: Caregivers Often Neglect Their Mental Health
June 09, 2006 – The American Cancer Society
Letters from Our Readers
June 09, 2006
Message from the Editor-at-Large
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Choosing a Counselor
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Tips for Preventing Infection
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer as a Legacy
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Fighting Cancer Together
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Running on Empty
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
The Blame Game
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
People & Places
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Beautiful Day: The Story of a Son's Loss
June 09, 2006 – Kevin Cropp
Surf & Turf
June 09, 2006 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Saving Your Skin
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Confronting Death
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo

Science of Suncreen

Improvements to sunscreen and other sun-protection methods in development can help reduce the risk of skin cancer. 

BY Elizabeth Whittington
PUBLISHED June 09, 2006

Almost 80 years after the first commercial sunscreen was developed in the United States, staying out of the sun is still the best protection against UV rays, but total avoidance is nearly impossible.

Consistent use of sunscreen lotion with an adequate sun protection factor (SPF) can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer. Although sunscreen and sunblock protect the skin, ingredients vary. Chemical protectants absorb most ultraviolet rays before reaching the skin, while physical blocks contain tiny particles that act as a mirror that bounces UV rays off the skin.

The strength of sunscreens are determined by SPF, the measurement of UVB protection. SPF is the ratio of the time it takes for UV exposure to produce minimal erythema (reddening of the skin) in protected skin versus unprotected skin. Therefore, a sunblock with an SPF of 15 means it takes the skin 15 times longer to begin turning red than if it was unprotected. While the level of protection needed varies according to skin type and duration of time in the sun, experts recommend an SPF between 15 and 30 that is reapplied every few hours and after water activities, even if the product is labeled “waterproof.” Because sunblock needs time to bind to the skin, experts recommend applying it 30 minutes before sun exposure. Otherwise, it can wash off easily with water or sweat.

Studies have shown people apply at least 25 percent less sunblock than needed to receive the full SPF. Sunblocks that have higher than SPF 30 offer only a negligible amount of additional protection. Sunblocks that guard against both UVA and UVB, called broad-spectrum, are more effective against damage that may cause skin cancer. While researchers believe UVB causes skin cancer and premature aging, new research shows that UVA may also cause cancer, including melanoma. Sunblock ingredients that protect against UVA include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone and avobenzone.

Modern methods of filtering UV rays await approval from the Food and Drug Administration, including a chemical called TDSA that protects against UVA and doesn’t degrade when exposed to UV radiation. Scientists are also researching oral agents. A dietary supplement called carotenoid astaxanthin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which may protect against UVA-induced DNA damage. Another supplement in testing to protect against UV damage is a sun protectant pill that would protect the entire body by adding another layer of protection. 

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