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September 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Your High-SPF Sunscreen May Not Be So Great After All

from the September, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Over the years, too many of my fellow divers have been diagnosed with melanoma. So, my friends, if you're headed to the tropics to go diving, sunscreen is a must. Sunscreen labels have new information designed to make the products more effective and easier to use. But despite these changes, many sunscreens continue to carry sun protection factor (SPF) ratings that some experts consider misleading and potentially dangerous.

New rules from the Food and Drug Administration ban terms like "waterproof," and require that sunscreens filter out both ultraviolet A and B rays. Still, one in seven products boasts SPF ratings above 50, which have long been viewed with skepticism. Many consumers assume that SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50, but dermatologists say the difference between the two is actually negligible. Where an SPF 50 product might protect against 97 percent of sunburn-causing rays, an SPF 100 product might block 98.5 percent of those rays. "The high SPF numbers are just a gimmick," Marianne Berwick, professor of epidemiology at the University of New Mexico, told Fox News. "Most people really don't need more than an SPF 30, and they should reapply it every couple of hours." She says sunscreen should be used in combination with hats, clothing and shade, which provide better protection against ultraviolet radiation....


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