Memorial Day rings in the summer season and, along with barbecue equipment, beach toys and sandals, stores are beginning to pad their shelves with sunscreen. That’s a great thing: sun damage is responsible for 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers in the United States, itself the most common form of cancer in the country, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In fact, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
“The risk of skin cancer is very real,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a recent statement in support of the government’s first annual “Don’t Fry Day” on May 25. “The FDA strongly recommends that consumers regularly use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures to more effectively protect themselves and their families whenever they are in the sun.”
But with so many options on store shelves — not to mention an impending change in the way that sunscreens are labelled and rated — selecting the appropriate sun protection can be a confusing endeavour. On the one hand, the block is essential to prevent the skin’s absorption of damaging sun radiation that can cause free-radical damage and lead to skin cancer and premature aging. But new research has suggested that some chemicals found in leading sunscreen brands can actually increase the risk of some melanoma skin cancers. So what should you do?