July 27, 2006 Geneva, Switzerland --
There is a good news, bad news scenario this week. First the bad news, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report that too much sun kills up to 60,000 people worldwide each year. The bulk of the deaths are from skin cancers caused by excess exposure to the sun's harmful rays, ultraviolet radiation (UVR).
UVR also causes sunburn, triggers cold sores and ages the skin, according to the report, the first to outline the global health burden of sun exposure. "We all need some sun, but too much sun can be dangerous - and even deadly," said Dr Maria Neira, Director for Public Health and the Environment at WHO, "Fortunately, diseases from UV such as malignant melanomas, other skin cancers and cataracts are almost entirely preventable through simple protective measures."
You want a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB, that has a high SPF, and that is waterproof
-- Dr. Jeffrey C. Salomon, Assistant Clinical Professor Yale University School of Medicine
Be careful in the sun this summer. Although the sun screens are improving, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. It's best to cover up between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M.
FDA Approval of a New Sunscreen Containing Mexoryl
Now for the good news, A new sunscreen just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration promises protection for the full range of both ultraviolet A and B rays.
Anthelios SX, made by L'Oreal, is new in that it contains ecamsule (Mexoryl), an agent that shields skin from short-wave UVA rays -- something sunscreens currently available in the U.S. are unable to do. The product will be available to consumers this fall.
"There is nothing like this in the U.S.," said Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor of Dermatology at New York University and advisor to L'Oreal. "Basically, it lasts longer, and it gives better protection against UVA."
But What About the Health Benefit of the Sun?
It is true that the human skin can convert sunshine into necessary vitamin D. Too little vitamin D is a concern for proper health. But too much of a good thing can be harmful, even deadly.
The key is to get just enough exposure to foster good health without incurring risk. UVR can neither be seen nor felt, therefore, we need an empirical monitoring number to know what the amount of radiation is for the day such as the global solar UV index. Most U.S. papers publish the "tanning index" a range from 1-10 with 10 being the most extreme level.
Harmful radiation levels vary with the time of day and year. Levels are highest when the sun is higher in the sky, typically between 10am and 2pm. Latitude and altitude also alter exposure. The closer to equatorial regions and the higher the altitude, the higher the risk of exposure to too much UVR.
The higher the UV index, the higher the risk of skin and eye damage. When the UV Index predicts radiation levels of 3 (moderate) or above, sun safety practices should be taken, WHO recommends.
Also, the reflective nature of the surroundings can amplify UVR. Grass, soil and water reflect less than 10% of UVR, but fresh snow reflects as much as 80%, dry beach sand about.
Good Sun Sense:
Limit time in the midday sun between 10:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M.
To get your vitamin D, spend just 15 minutes in the sun before 10:00 A.M. or after 2:00 P.M.
Wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses (with UV protection)
Use sunscreen of sun protection factor (SPF) 15+
Avoid sun lamps and tanning parlors (sorry health clubs)
Chemical Sun screens Actually Break Down in the Sun
"A lot of sunscreens break down in the sun. That's the dirty little secret that no one talks about," said Dr. Jeffrey C. Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine. "In most sunscreens, there are both chemical and physical sun blocks."
Sun blocks such as zinc oxide and titanium physically block the sun from coming in, Salomon said. "Chemical sun blocks break down rapidly in the sun," he said. "You want a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB, that has a high SPF, and that is waterproof."
"It's best to use a sun block that contains both physical as well as chemical blockers," Salomon advised. Salomon recommends putting a shot-glass-size amount of sun block on each arm and leg and on the chest and back. In addition, it should be put on at least 30 minutes before going into the sun and reapplied every two hours.
Source: World Health Organization
More Like This
(3/9/2006) Tanning Beds, Sunshine and Vitamin D, Optimum Dosages to Be Determined
(5/23/2005) Sun Bathing in Moderation May Help Prevent Cancer, Even Skin Cancer
(7/9/2004) Vitamin D From Sunlight Shown to Fight Cancer
(4/18/2003) UK Doctors Advise Against Tanning Beds
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