New FDA sunscreen rules

This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced new regulations on sunscreens that will go into effect next year. These regulations include:• a maximum SPF of 50 because 50+ doesn't offer more protection, • SPF will include UVA and UVB light protection (currently SPF only refers to UVB), • and "waterproof" or "sweatproof" cannot be used to describe sunscreens but "water resistant" can be used if product testing proves it can be resistant at two intervals, 40 or 80 minutes. The new regulations were the topic of the Diane Rehm show yesterday. As always, I found her show informative, and in her usual style, Rehm interviewed both proponents and critics, one critic who said it has taken the FDA over 30 years to come up with these rules, while skin cancer rates continue to multiply each year in the U.S. While this may be true, it's important to focus on what we can do. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and yes, skin cancer rates continue to climb each year. So what can we do about this now? The dermatologist that Rehm interviewed had some great suggestions. She said we should stop thinking sunscreen is just for the beach, but something we use every day we are exposed to the sun. Also, we need to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours because it can come off from sweat or rubbing with a towel or napkin. I also learned from the show that sunscreen has about a two-year shelf life. Sunscreens that have been around longer than that may not provide the full protection, if any. For those who don't want to wear sunscreens, there are many options for sun protective clothing. The American Cancer Society provides some additional skin cancer prevention tips at its website. The American Academy of Dermatology also has helpful online tools such as prevention tips, a "mole map" to help you determine skin cancer and locations where you can get free skin cancer screenings. So while the FDA regulations may be late and won't be in effect for another year, don't use that as an excuse not to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing or hats. Every bit helps in the fight against skin cancer.