Northwestern University researchers found that people usually link the effectiveness of a sunscreen with the SPF number. The general conception is that the higher the solar protection factor is the lower risk of skin cancer. But that is only partially true, study authors suggest.
The study found that very few people know how to properly read the labels after two years since the FDA issued the general guidelines on sunscreen labeling. And that’s because data is often incomplete or cryptic.
For instance, makers are not providing helpful information on what type of solar radiation their products can filter out. Most products, researchers explained, filter out harmful UVB rays but many of them fail to block UVA rays altogether. Both UVA and UVB radiation can lead to skin cancer, though the UVBs are the main cause of sunburns.
Yet, a sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, doctors argue. In the U.S. alone, skin cancer is listed first on the most common types of cancer list. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that skin cancers including the deadliest form called melanoma are mainly caused by exposure to ultra violet (UV) radiation.
“One estimate is that 90% of melanomas are sun-related,”
said a spokesperson from the American Cancer Society.
A recent ACS report suggests that about 2.2 million Americans will learn that they have skin cancer by the end of the year, among which nearly 74,000 of cases will be diagnosed with melanoma.
In the recent study, researchers surveyed 114 patients of the Northwestern Medicine dermatology center. Study authors hoped that patients of a dermatology clinic would be more literate when it comes to reading a sunscreen label. Surprisingly, fewer than 50 percent could accurately tell what type of sunblock would be better fitted to protect them against premature aging, skin cancer or sunburns.
Additionally, most of those patients had little or absolutely no info on what “broad spectrum” may mean.
Dr. Roopal V. Kundu, co-author of the recently published study and skin care expert at Northwestern University ’s Feinberg School of Medicine, explained that skin is damaged by two types of solar radiation – UVA and UVB. UVA radiation usually causes wrinkles and leathery skin in young people and can also cause skin cancer. The UVB radiation can primarily cause sunburns, but it can also lead to cancer.
Study authors explained that a higher SPF number does not necessarily mean that the product can keep you safe from UVA rays. The label of a sunscreen that also provides UVA protection will have “broad spectrum” on it, researchers added.
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