Things You Might Not Know About Sun Protection

Do you know that scientists believe that both UVA and UVB cause health problems, but the SPF numbers on sunscreens only rate UVB protection?
Premature aging of the skin, cataracts, immune suppression, skin cancer (including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma), and many symptoms of lupus can be attributed to both UVA and UVB.

Currently, the SPF rating on a sunscreen only measures how well it protects against UVB. However, the FDA is in the process of changing the SPF scheme to also incorporate information about the level of UVA protection provided. Various delays have meant the FDA has not yet completed publication of a new standard, so for now consumers need to make their own assessment of the level of UVA protection provided by a sunscreen.

Do you understand the difference between UVA and UVB?
Ultraviolet radiation is a portion of the electromagnetic energy spectrum produced by the sun. It is commonly split into three bands: UVA, UVB, and UVC.UVC is completely absorbed by ozone and oxygen and does not reach the earth's surface. UVB is mostly absorbed by ozone, although some reaches the Earth under normal conditions and even more will reach the surface because of ozone depletion. UVB varies in cycles according to the time of day, season, latitude, altitude and so on.

UVA is not significantly absorbed by ozone and passes through to the earth's surface. UVA does change due to time of year, latitude, etc., although not as much as UVB. To protect against UVA, you need to protect yourself year round regardless of where you live in the US.

Do you know how much sunscreen you need for a 1 week family vacation?
Answer: 6 to 12 standard 4 oz bottles!Most experts recommend using 1 oz of sunscreen (a shot glass) per application to cover an adult and reapplying it every 2 hours. A family with 2 adults and 2 children, in the sun 6 hours per day (needing 3 applications of sunscreen), spending most of their time swimming (needing the sunscreen to protect most of their body), would need at least 2 bottles of sunscreen each day (assuming a standard 4 oz bottle or tube). So for a 6 day vacation that same family would need at least 12 bottles or tubes. If the family is sightseeing, biking, hiking or golfing, and wearing short-sleeve shirts and shorts, then they need less sunscreen - only 1 bottle or tube of sunscreen each day or 6 bottles for the 6 day vacation.

Do you know tanning salons cause severe skin damage and skin cancer? Do you know Americans spend at least 3 times as much money on tanning salons as on sunscreens?
Estimates of the size of the tanning salon industry vary from $2 billion to $9 billion. Even the low end of this range is significantly greater than the $600 million spent on SPF 15 or higher sunscreens and sunblocks. Interestingly, women are the main customers for both tanning salons and for sunscreen - young women are the most frequent customers at tanning salons and women of all ages use sunscreen significantly more than men. This data suggests there is still a tremendous need for education about sun protection with children, young women and men of all ages.

Do you know that normal summer clothing does not fully protect you against the sun?
This is particularly true for people with very fair skin and for light weight summer clothing. In fact, a comprehensive analysis of the UV protection provided by regular summer clothing was published in BioMed Central in 2002. The scientists, led by Dr. Gambichler, tested 236 different garment fabrics. They found that fewer than half the fabrics analyzed provided as much protection as a SPF 30 sunscreen. They concluded it was difficult for sun sensitive consumers to choose the "right" garment unless garments were tested and labeled in accordance with appropriate standards.

Do you know that in Australia, certified sun protective clothing is more popular than sunscreen?
Australia has had significant public health issues with skin cancer. One result is that all clothing labeled "sun protective" is regulated by a Federal agency-one similar to the EPA in the US. Almost 4 million garment hang tags with serial numbers are issued by a Federal government laboratory each year. The combination of ease of use and government certified protection has proven so popular in Australia that the market for sun protective clothing is now much bigger than the sunscreen market.

Do you know that skin cancer can kill you?
Many people believe that skin cancer is a relatively harmless disorder-visit your doctor, have it removed, and life goes on with no problems. However, approximately 10,000 Americans were killed by skin cancer last year. Approximately 8,000 of these deaths were from malignant melanoma, while the remaining 2,000 deaths mostly resulted from squamous cell carcinomas. The biggest danger is letting skin cancer go untreated-if you are not sure about a mole or freckle that has changed in some way-you should always make an appointment and have it examined by a physician.

Learn more about sun protection.