Kristine Kucera, PA-C, MPAS, DHS
Sun Protection Safety Update
In the late 1970s, the promotion of sun protection was almost nonexistent, even though Swiss researcher Franz Greiter had developed the concept of SPF (sun protection factor). The first products introduced to the U.S. market in 1978 were designed to be “tanning enhancers” that helped you darken without burning. In the early 1980s, a Photobiology Committee of experts was created by the Skin Cancer Foundation, who helped establish a standard for adequate sun protection. Sunscreens are now labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF), such as 15, 30, or 50.
It is well established that too much Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) from the sun can damage the DNA in your skin cells, which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and at least one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. The most common form is nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Ninety percent of the time, NMSC is associated with long-term, unprotected, exposure to the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests wearing a sunscreen of at least an SPF 30 daily and if outdoors apply at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to all exposed skin every two hours.
In April 2020, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a pilot study showing that the chemicals used in sunscreen have a potential for high systemic absorption. This led the FDA to call for further industry testing to determine the safety and effect of systemic exposure of sunscreen ingredients with chronic use. On September 24, 2021, the FDA posted the final order for sunscreens, which set current requirements for marketing OTC sunscreen products. Because skin cancer is a real concern, and there are recognized public health benefits of sunscreen use, the FDA urges Americans to use sunscreens in conjunction with other sun protective measures, such as sun protective clothing. In addition, a mineral based sunscreen containing zinc and/or titanium dioxide is generally recognized as safe and effective.
Read more about the latest FDA guidelines at FDA.gov.
Kristine Kucera, PA-C, MPAS, DHS, is Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Texas Southwestern, Medical Center PA Program, Dallas, TX. She is a member of the DEF Advisory Council.
Skin Cancer Foundation
American Academy of Dermatology