Summer is just around the corner and you may already be dreaming of lying on the beach or catching some rays in the park at lunchtime. But with incidents of skin cancer on the rise, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun.
Though there are a multitude of effective products on the market, the federal government has also been slow to approve newer and stronger sunscreen ingredients that are already available outside the U.S. An FDA spokesperson said on Thursday that the agency “recognizes the public health importance of sunscreen use” and has “prioritized reviewing the safety and effectiveness of additional sunscreen ingredients as quickly as possible given its resources.”
On the bright side, new technologies beyond plain-vanilla sunscreen are sprouting up to help you avoid skin damage – and in the worst case scenario, cancer.
More than 2 million American develop skin cancer each year. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer for teenagers and young adults between 15 and 29 years old, and the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 29. Since 2000, the rates of new melanoma cases have climbed by 2 percent every year.
Many sun-worshipping baby boomers used to let their kids run around on the beach in the middle of the day without sun protection – but have now become more aware of the potential dangers. And while you’d think the younger generation – armed with more information at an earlier age – might be better prepared and more careful, statistics prove this isn’t true.
In 2008, 60 percent of adults over age 25 said they usually adopt sun-protective behaviors such as using sunscreen, sun-protective clothing or staying in the shade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the younger people are, the less they protect their skin. Only 45 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 24 used one or more protective methods. Among high school students, 14.4 percent of girls and just 7.3 percent of boys reported routinely using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher.
“In general, the younger age group does tend to adopt riskier sun behavior,” said David Andrews, chief scientist at Environmental Working Group. “Tan skin is considered a sign of health and beauty.”
Even if all Americans regularly wore sunscreen, the most protective products are not yet available to us.
“The last time a new sunscreen product was approved was in 1999,” said Yianni Varonis, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who announced earlier this month that he’s cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to strengthen the potency of sunscreen found in the U.S. The legislation would expedite the review process of sunscreen ingredients by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are manufactured in the U.S. in many cases but can’t be sold legally here, yet they’re widely available in Canada and Europe.
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