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Sunscreen 101: Melanoma, Tanning Beds, and the New FDA Rules

Elizabeth Dehn's picture

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and while sun exposure warnings might seem like old hat to everyone but the New Jersey mom who allegedly took her 6-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, these statistics should stop you from hitting the tanning salon or skipping the sunscreen:


  • A new study by the Skin Cancer Foundation has revealed an alarming rise in melanoma among people aged 18 to 39. Over the past 40 years, rates of this potentially deadly skin cancer grew by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.
  • Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
  • If you tan indoors just four times a year you increase your risk of developing melanoma by 11 percent.
  • Indoor tanners are also 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.

Effective June 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for over-the-counter sunscreens are changing the way manufacturers must label sun protection products. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re sufficiently covered:

  • Avoid products with an SPF value less than 15, which do not pass the new ”Broad Spectrum” testing requirements. Such products have been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.
  • If you’re going to break a sweat or go for a swim, look for products labeled “water resistant.” It’s no longer legit to use the terms “sunblock” “waterproof” and “sweatproof” on labels.
  • 4. Labels must include the duration of water resistance provided by the product in two time periods: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
  • 5. Products that claim to provide sun protection at a value higher than SPF 50 may only be labeled as SPF 50+ as there is no compelling evidence that an SPF greater than 50 provides better protection.

Infographic courtesy of Target


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