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Regular Sunscreen Use May Give False Sense of Security From Sunburn

Sunscreen Users More Likely to Burn?

Shade, Hat, Sleeves continued...

“There’s still a lot of work that we as physicians, especially dermatologists, need to do to educate individuals about proper photoprotection,” says Henry W. Lim, MD, chair of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

He says this study is consistent with previous research.

“It’s known that people use sunscreen, but they don’t use it at the appropriate amount and because of that, they have a false sense of a security,” says Lim, who was not involved in the research.

That false sense of security can lead people to stay in the sun longer than they safely should, leading to an increased risk of sunburns and greater UV exposure, which can cause skin cancer.

Sunscreen Prevents Cancer

Sunscreen use has been shown to reduce some kinds of skin cancers, however, and earlier this year, a prospective study, the first of its kind, found that regular sunscreen use in a group of 1,621 Australian adults cut their risk of melanoma by 50%.

Importantly, however, the study participants in that trial carefully and repeatedly applied sunscreen while also seeking shade and wearing protective clothing.

“The best data that’s out there shows the combination of seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and wearing sunscreen, those three things together clearly lower your risk,” says Darrell S. Rigel, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University.

Rigel says there is an important caveat about this study which should reassure people about their sunscreen.

The latest data used in the study is now about five years old, and he says sunscreens have improved in a couple of key ways since then.

“How long it lasts, 'substantivity' it’s called, has markedly improved, really with new formulations,” he says, and many of the newer formulations offer better broad-spectrum protections against both UVB, the burning rays, and UVA, the cancer-causing rays.

New FDA rules for sunscreens, which will go into effect next year, should make it easier to pick a good product.

That’s important, Rigel points out, because it’s not always possible to stay in the shade or wear longs sleeves.

Brush up on Beauty

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