The sauna that is Florida in the summer has arrived a bit ahead of schedule this year, which means those of us who work out in the great outdoors need a superhero sunscreen that can withstand prolific perspiration.
But now the federal Food and Drug Administration tells us there's no such thing as sweat-proof, waterproof or sun block. Recent FDA rules on sunscreen labeling say the most a product can claim is "broad-spectrum" -- protecting against both UVA and UVB radiation -- and water or sweat "resistant," which should be reapplied every 40 to 80 minutes.
Some lesser sunscreens must even carry a skin-cancer warning. The rules actually went into effect last summer, but as consumers stock up on new products, this may be the first time they'll see the label changes.
Of course, that's assuming consumers are buying sunscreen at all. Despite the estimate that nearly 77,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2013, researchers from Yale University recently reported that 35 percent of people who spend more than an hour a day in the summer's sun never use sunscreen.
And perhaps most shocking, even 27 percent of those who have had melanoma report never using sunscreen.
“It's incredibly disturbing that even after getting the disease once, some survivors continue these practices which would put them at greater risk of getting it again,” said author Dr. Anees Chagpar, associate professor of surgical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.
Dr. Joshua Fox, medical director of Advanced Dermatology P.C. in New York and New Jersey, agreed. "Survivors are nine times as likely as the general population to develop a new melanoma. Of the seven most common cancers, melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing, and it is the one for which we can provide the most definitive guidance on prevention," he said. "Clearly, more and better education is called for."
You'd think most people would know the prevention strategy by now: Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when rays are strongest, or use sun-protective clothing or broad-spectrum sunscreen, re-applying at least every two hours and more often if you swim or sweat. For whatever reason, they're just not taking it to heart.
Perhaps they think sunscreen is too pricey.
But you don't have to spend a small fortune to get a good product. In Consumer Reports latest ratings on sunscreens, issued last week, Target's Up & Up Sport SPF 50 spray and Walmart's Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 lotion earned the highest scores in tests -- yet were among the least expensive.
The full report, which includes ratings of the 12 sunscreens tested, is featured in the July 2013 issue of Consumer Reports and is available at ConsumerReports.org.
For more information on the FDA labeling rules, go to fda.gov/sunscreen.