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Published on March 13, 2012

Preventing the Skin Cancer, Not Just the Sunburn

New sunscreen regulations are designed to protect people from the sun’s cancer-causing rays.

Aurora, Colo. – With the first day of spring just one week away, anyone who spends time in the sun should be aware of new sunscreen regulations designed to help prevent skin cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new requirements for sunscreens which will go into effect by this summer, but consumers should already be looking for new labels.

Look for "Broad Spectrum" products

Theresa Pacheco, MD

Theresa Pacheco, MD

Until now, sunscreen rules have mainly focused on preventing sunburns which are caused by ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun.  Many sunscreens did not protect consumers from ultraviolet A (UVA) rays which contribute to both skin aging and skin cancer.

Now, consumers should look for sunscreens labeled “Broad Spectrum” because these products will protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.  The FDA also reccomends consumers pick a sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher.

University of Colorado Hospital Dermatology physician Theresa Pacheco regularly sees patients whose skin has been damaged by overexposure to the sun.

"Many people don’t understand how serious malignant melanoma can be," Pacheco says.  "This cancer kills about one person every hour in the United States, and I tell my patients that most of these cases could have been prevented by regularly using sunscreen."

Pacheco is also an investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Guidelines to be sun-wise

While using effective sunscreen is important, dermatologists at the University of Colorado Hospital also recommend the following:

  • Replace sunscreen after a year – it starts to lose its effectiveness as it ages.
  • Limit time in the sun, especially when the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Reapply sunscreen regularly when spending extended time outside, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Use a water resistant sunscreen if you’re going to be swimming or sweating.
  • Wear hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants to cover exposed skin.

About University of Colorado Hospital

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center.  It is recognized as the highest-performing academic hospital in the United States for delivering quality health care by the University HealthSystem Consortium, and is ranked as the best hospital in the Denver metro area and one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside.

The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery. 

Contact: Dan Weaver (720) 848-7852 or dan.weaver@ucdenver.edu

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