Consumers are confused by sunscreen labels

Consumers are confused by sunscreen labels

Sunscreen labels are confusing to many consumers just trying to protect their skin from damaging rays, according to new research.

Study participants were shown numerous sunscreen bottles and asked to identify information on the label that indicated the product protected against sunburns, early skin aging or skin cancer.

Researchers found that participants were only able to identify terms that specified the product protected against skin cancer 38 percent of the time, sunburns 23 percent of the time, and early skin aging 7 percent of the time. In addition, 43 percent understood the definition of sun factor protection (SPF).

“We need to do a better job of educating people about sun protection and make it easier for them to understand labels,” lead study author Dr. Roopal Kundu said in a news release.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We recommend you buy a sunscreen lotion labeled ‘broad spectrum protection,’  which helps to protect against both types of UV rays, with an SPF of 30 or higher that is also water resistant,” said Dr. Kundu.

Dr. Adam Riker, medical director of the melanoma program at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., and director of the medical center’s Cancer Institute, says melanoma rates aren’t getting any lower. Skin cancer is the most rapidly growing cancer in women between 20 and 40 years old.

“Too much sun is the main reason people develop skin cancer,” says Dr. Riker. “Genetic factors like fair skin, freckles and moles can also increase the chances of developing melanoma.”

Dr. Riker stresses that melanoma is highly curable if detected in the early stages.

He offers these preventative steps for adults and kids:

  • Perform a full skin exam at home once a month.
  • Check for new freckles or moles that might appear and examine existing marks for changes in size, shape or color. Report any changes to your doctor right away.
  • Apply sunscreen daily.
  • Wear proper clothing while enjoying the sunshine.

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About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.