2009-05-20 / Columnists

Sun Strategies to save your skin­— and your life

May is Melanoma month and the people at LUCA Sunscreen LLC feel it's very im­portant that you know more about Mela­noma. Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers and incidences of mela­noma are doubling every 10-20 years. The lifetime risk of developing mela­noma

was 1/1500 in 1935; in 2002 it was 1/68. Metastatic melanoma is one of the most deadly of all malignancies, test­ing of sunscreens (Australia) has re­duced the incidence of certain types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas), but has led to an appar­ent increase in mela­noma incidence. This is not that surprising if one looks closely at how sunscreens work and what causes Melanoma and its increased inci­dence. In the US the movement of large segments of the population to Sunbelt ar­eas results in increased leisure hours spent in the sun and poor sun protective strat­egies.

It is now known that sun induced melanomas are caused predominately by UVA exposure, so it is imperative to seek out a sunscreen with high levels of UVA protection.

Sun Strategies for lowering lifetime mel­anoma and skin cancer risk are:

1. Do not sunburn. Sunburn, particu­larly early in life, increases lifetime risk of melanoma and skin cancer development. Watch your children and remember a burn can occur, afteras little as ten minutes of unprotected sun exposure.

2. Apply generous amounts of a qual­ity sunscreen. Most consumers apply only half of the recommended amount.

3. Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning a sunscreen with high levels of UVB and UVA protection. 4. Apply sunscreen to dry skin, before going outside. Sunscreen applied to wet or sweaty skin is not very effective. 5. Sunscreens are vital, but are not a golden bullet. Use common sense. Use sun protective clothes and hat, together with shade, when possible. 6. An SPF15 sunscreen will provide 2 hours of protection before a burn devel­ops, with an SPF 30 providing 4 hours before developing a burn. Thecur­rent SPF methodol­ogy breaks down as a reliable predictor of burn protection when one reaches an SPF of 30-33. SPF values above this lev­el are pure market­ing, and should be avoided. SPF's over 33 are of marginal additional benefit, but have guaranteed higher active ingre­dient

levels which increase the risk of irritation.

How to select a "good" sunscreen? 1. Sunscreens were designed to protect against the sunburn producing UVB rays. SPF tells about the level of UVB or burn protection, but provides no information about the level of UVA protection. UVA rays do not cause sunburn, but are the cause of solar aging and sun induced mela­noma. Use of a sunscreen with good UVB, but poor UVA protection will allow one to stay out in the sun all day long without burning, but "cooking" themselves with UVA rays. Thisis the "Australian Paradox." Increase in sunscreen at the same time as increase in melanoma rates.

2. Select a sunscreen with a known level of UVA protection. The gold standard for rating UVA protection is critical wave­length. The American Academy of Der­matology is recommending that consum­ers use products with a critical wavelength of 370nm and higher. LUCA, Critical Wavelength, BioSoleil, Hincapie Skin De­fense

and other high quality products are beginning to provide this information on the label. If you are using a product with a critical wavelength below 370nm, you are likely increasing your risk of melanoma. Most products have critical wavelength values below 370nm so watch out!! This information is provided as a public service from LUCA Sunscreen.

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