Is Your Sunscreen Causing Skin Cancer?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Sunscreen Dangers

The last time I blogged about the dangers of UV rays was in April, with 6 Ways to Protect Yourself from UV Dangers. Within minutes of when my blog posted, many of you expressed concern and surprise at my advice since sun exposure is necessary for vitamin D production. My answer was that you only need 15-20 minutes of sun to manufacture vitamin D. After that, you want to apply sunscreen.

But what’s even scarier is that your sunscreen may still be letting cancer-causing rays to reach your skin. Right now, a sunscreen can call itself “broad spectrum” even if it only protects against UVB rays, but still lets all the harmful cancer-causing UVA rays through.

So they’re giving people a false sense of protection, allowing them to stay out in the sun longer without burning—and increasing our exposure to harmful UVA rays. No wonder over the last 30 years the incidence of skin cancer in the United States is accelerating despite our increased use of sunscreens.

I’ve been warning about this for years, and finally last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took sunscreen manufacturers to task by requiring more accurate labeling. By the summer of 2012, only sunscreens that can prove they protect against UVB and UVA rays can carry the broad spectrum label.

So, what’s the bottom line for you?

Until the new FDA legislation takes effect, look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—these are the only active ingredients I endorse. I also especially don’t like oxybenzone, so read your labels carefully! When applying sunscreen don’t forget to cover your lips and the vulnerable tops of your ears. Also wear a hat on those sunny strolls and reserve outdoor activities like yard work for the early morning or evening hours.

Finally, remember your skin is your body’s largest organ—and that’s not something you want to risk.

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