Warning issued as sunscreens 'fail' to offer UVA protection

New research published today has warned that sunseekers are still at serious risk from harmful UVA light even though they may have applied the correct dose of sunscreen.

According to research by the Restoration of Appearance & Function Trust (Raft), reported in the current issue of The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the protection afforded by sunscreen creams against UVA is not what might be expected; and even when sunscreens are applied in the recommended concentration they afford much lower protection against the melanoma-inducing and ageing effects of sunlight.

It is long understood that the sun’s UVA light penetrates through to the skin and causes the release of free radicals – which probably causes the skin cancer melanoma and premature ageing of the skin.

In its research, Raft used a technique known as Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) to detect free radicals in human skin.

The incidence of skin cancer is rising faster than that for any other form of cancer. Despite medical and scientific advances, treatment of skin cancers is still quite basic and is very similar to that of 50 years ago. Melanoma, the most sinister and aggressive form, occurs not only in the elderly but also increasingly in young adults – and its incidence is doubling every decade.

Most sunscreens protect well against the UVB rays – thus helping to protect against the burning - but may be encouraging users to stay longer in the sun. Creams now quote ratings for their sun protection factor against UVB (SPF) which indicate how much longer a user can stay in the sun than if no cream had been used.

Some filters against UVA rays are being introduced into sun protection creams, however, these seem "inadequate" against melanoma and skin ageing – particularly when the UVB filters encourage users to stay longer in the sun, Raft says.

Raft has called for a more joined up approach from manufacturers and health agencies in tackling the issue. The organisation has recommended that in the meantime people keep out of the sun more and cover up completely until more effective sunscreen has been developed.


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