News

29-01-2017

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancers in the world, and protecting your skin with the use of sunscreen remains a vital element in the Slip, Slop, Slap,Slide, Seek official message.  Each year over  440 000 Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer and 1900 will die as a result of the skin cancer. Sunscreens sold in Australia must be listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration ( TGA) and tested and rated according to the Australian Standards. When tested, the sunscreen is applied at a rate of 2mg per square centimetre of skin.

There has been recent concern in social media this summer that some sunscreens are ineffective, not preventing sunburn and some are harmful or produce allergic reactions. The two brands reported have been rechecked by the Therapeutic Goods Administration ( TGA) in 2016 and the response from Banana Boat and the Cancer Council to concerns about the products' lack of sun protection is that not  enough sunscreen has been applied leading to burning in the cases highlighted. The reported burning was not due to ineffective product. The common thread to the complaints is the use of aerosol sprays which deliver a very light cover of sunscreen

Currently it is recommended to use one teaspoon of sunscreen for each arm, two for each leg, one for each side of the torso, and one for the face, ears and neck ( approximately a total of a cupped handful in total). The recommendation is to use SPF 30 or higher of broad-spectrum , water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every 2 hours.

There are two types of sunscreen, chemical and physical.The chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation, the physical sunscreen reflect and scatter UV radiation. There have been concerns about the use of nanoparticles and whether they penetrate the skin and cause effects such as cancer or toxic reactions. The TGA reviewed the nanoparticle risk in 2013 and concluded that studies have not shown the nanoparticles penetrate the underlying layers of skin and are unlikely to cause harm when used as an ingredient to sunscreen.

Sunscreens are complex chemical formulations containing chemical filters and preservatives which can cause allergic reactions. Some sunscreens are marketed for babies and children, they usually contain more physical blockers and fewer chemical filters, perfume and may be more suited to sensitive skin. Before applying to a large area it is recommended to do a small patch test with the product to assess suitability for the child or sensitive skin type.

Chef Peter Evans has caused controversy over his statements on sunscreen and "poisonous chemicals" they contain . The recommendation is not to be guided on health matters by a chef .

On current evidence, the health benefits gained by the appropriate use of sunscreen outweigh any potential risk.

Dr Ian Olver, oncologist has written a helpful article for The Conversation in 2012 regarding the sun/UV radiation and vitamin D deficiency ( 12/11/12 at theconversation.com )

For a detailed scientific review and guide to buying and using  sunscreen see choice.com.au and for an overview of risk/benefit see cancerwa.asn.au

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