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Get Ready for Summer! FDA highlights importance of sunscreen

Americans have been urged to take precautions to protect against ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancer during the hotter months of the year. In a statement issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, highlighted the dangers and prevalence of skin cancer in the United States, laying out steps the FDA will take to ensure the safety and efficacy of sun protection products. 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with one in five Americans at risk of developing the condition during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates around 73,000 new cases of the most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, are diagnosed in the United States each year. Furthermore, it estimates in excess of two million new cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed annually. 

In recent years, the FDA, healthcare communities, and government agencies have taken steps to advance more effective UV protection, using national education drives and awareness efforts to improve understanding of the risks and how to avoid them. 

The FDA has also announced three new steps to advance its framework for sun protection products ahead of the summer months. These are: ensuring products sold to consumers deliver their advertised benefits; taking new steps to promote safe and effective innovations for sun protection; and laying out draft guidance for industry regarding Maximal Usage Trials for topically-applied active ingredients, including sunscreen. 

Consumers were urged to be wary of certain products purporting to offer protection from UV radiation, as dietary supplements are no substitute for the proper application of sunscreen and taking steps to avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun.

“Consumers should be watchful for unscrupulous companies making unproven claims. When the FDA sees companies taking advantage of people’s desire to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun - we’ll step in. There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen,” Gottlieb stated.

Each year, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designates one day as Don’t Fry Day, which this year fell on May 28th, 2018. As part of the National Awareness day, the organization suggested some simple tips to follow to minimize the risk of skin cancer developing: 

- Do not burn or tan

- Seek shade

- Wear sun-protective clothing

- Apply generous quantities of sunscreen

- Be particularly careful of the sun when near water, snow, or sand

- Find safe ways to get vitamin D

Other advice issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and reapplying sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or toweling dry.

The CDC also urged Americans to check the expiration date on their sunscreen and to use products with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15. The agency warns that clothing provides some protection from the sun, but noted that a typical t-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15.