Americans deserve quality sunscreens to prevent skin cancer now!

In the U.S., skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Adequate, quality sunscreens to protect Americans from dangerous UVA radiation from the sun, which causes skin cancer, continues to be needed, but has been primarily prevented by outdated law.

U.S. sunscreen protection isn't preventing Americans from UVA radiation from the sun, the UV radiation causing many to have skin cancerIn the U.S., the long Memorial Day weekend is just two weeks away. It starts the summer vacation season here, and many vacationers will be headed to the beach. The beaches will be crowded with sun worshipers, beach volleyball and soccer enthusiasts, plus children playing in the sand and water.

Many on the beach will have their skin absorb dangerous UVA (ultraviolet A) radiation from the sun. While they may believe that they’re safe because they’re wearing high SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen products, many will be wrong. While high SPF sunscreen products sold in the U.S. protect those wearing them from UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation, the kind that causes sunburn, many aren’t effective against UVA radiation, the kind that causes skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and a serious problem for millions of Americans.

If you don’t think that being in the sun is a serious cancer problem, particularly on the beach where most people aren’t wearing much protective clothing, think again.

Here are some facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.

While it takes a while for many people to develop skin cancer, one in five Americans (20 percent) will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

More than two people in the U.S. die of skin cancer every hour.

Skin cancer costs the U.S. health care system $8.9 billion a year, according to CDC researchers.

The diagnosis and treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancers in the U.S. increased by 77 percent between 1994 and 2014.

An estimated 3.6 million cases of Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Couple that with the second most common skin cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), (1.8 million cases each year) and that’s 5.4 million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year from those two types alone.

About 90 percent of the above nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

An estimated 200,340 cases of melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2024.

A UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

The facts about the serious problem of skin cancer in the U.S. are undeniable.

The facts are undeniable. Millions of cases of skin cancer occur in the U.S. every year. Most of these cases will be the result of UVA radiation exposure from the sun over time.

The serious problem of UV radiation from the sun for Americans is clear. Let’s look at why sunscreens aren’t helping more to protect Americans from skin cancer.

The sunscreen SPF standard in the U.S. is misleading as it only indicates the sunscreen’s ability to block UVB, not UVA, radiation.

First, the SPF standard in the U.S. is misleading. In the U.S., SPF only indicates a sunscreen’s ability to block UVB radiation, the kind that causes sunburn. In other countries, in Europe and Asia, for example, many require a specific rating for UVA radiation, the kind that causes skin cancer. It’s not that protection from UVB radiation isn’t important. It’s that protection from UVA radiation is critical and that the American SPF standard doesn’t inform the public if they’re protected from UVA and by how much.

In Europe, for example, manufacturers typically voluntarily comply with a European Commission recommendation that all sunscreens offer UVA protection at least one-third as strong as the SPF. So, generally in Europe, if a product advertises SPF 30, its UVA protection will be at least 10.

A study of UVA protection standards in the U.S. and Europe showed that almost all sunscreens met U.S. standards, but just over half met European standards.

A 2017 study on UVA protection standards in the U.S. and Europe reported that while 19 of the 20 sunscreens tested met U.S. standards, just 11 met European standards. Reviews since then indicate that little in the U.S. has changed.

The U.S. FDA has approved only two ingredients that are effective against UVA radiation. Both are unpopular in large part because they quickly breakdown.

It’s not just a standards problem in the U.S., it’s an FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) ingredient problem too. At this point, only two ingredients that offer strong protection against UVA radiation are approved by the FDA . They are zinc oxide and avobenzone. Between 2003 and 2010, sunscreen makers applied for the FDA’s permission to use eight sun-filtering chemicals developed by European companies. None have been approved to date.

The two approved in the U.S. are not overly popular. Zinc oxide has been around for years. You’ve likely seen it applied to the noses of lifeguards at U.S. beaches. It’s that thick, white, greasy stuff. While it’s effective for awhile, it’s greasy and unsightly, plus hard to apply to large exposed areas of the body. It also needs to be reapllied every couple of hours. Avobenzone’s main problem is that it breaks down quickly in sunlight and must be reapplied about every 30 minutes.

A 1938 U.S. law has prevented the FDA from approving new effective sunscreen ingredients such as those used in Europe for years.

Much of the reason why new sunscreens capable of blocking UVA aren’t available in the U.S. is that due to a 1938 U.S. law, the FDA classifies sunscreens as over-the-counter drugs, rather than as cosmetics, as they are in much of the world, and requires sunscreens to be tested on animals.

David Andrews, Ph.D. of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, an organization researching consumer product ingredients, has said, “It looks like a number of these newer chemicals have a better safety profile in addition to better UVA protection. We have asked the FDA to consider allowing market access,” speaking of ingredients currently used in European manufactured and approved sunscreens.

While the FDA defends itself for calling for additional testing for products, some of which have been used in Europe for a significant time, many Americans have been illegally importing non-FDA-approved sunscreens from Europe to protect themselves from UVA and therefore skin cancer. The importation is a serious problem, as too many times the products have proven to be fake, unable to provide users any protection from UV radiation.

A bill has been introduced in Congress that would change the law, making it possible for new ingredient approvals by the FDA to make sunscreens in the U.S. effective against UVA radiation.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) thanked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for urging the FDA to speed up approvals of effective sunscreen ingredients. In February, Rep. Earl Carter (R-GA) introduced H.R. 7248, FDA Modernization Act 3.0 with 29 co-sponsors. The bill, if it becomes law, would require the FDA to allow non-animal testing of sunscreen ingredients. Unfortunately, the bill will die at the end of the year if it doesn’t become law and would have to be reintroduced next year.

After reviewing the literature and safety data of products and ingredients that have been successfully used in Europe and elsewhere, I believe that it’s time for the FDA to get on with modern test methods for sunscreen components. To do that, the U.S. Congress must pass the current U.S. House bill H.R. 7248 in both the House and Senate. Then President Biden must sign it into law.

Americans heading to beach vacations, playing sports, hiking and partaking in other outdoor activities, need new sunscreens to effectively protect themselves from skin cancer caused by UVA radiation. The time is long overdue for the U.S. to allow that protection. It’s time for the U.S. government to take expeditious, thoughtful action to protect Americans from skin cancer.