June 27, 2012
For parents who want to protect their children from the sun this summer, but are puzzled by confusing sunscreen ratings, Ontario's doctors can help.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) in sunscreens gives a general indication of how long we can expect to be exposed to the sun before burning, but very high SPF ratings of 80, 90 or even 100 are only marginally more protective. The protection is not linear. For example, an SPF of 60 does not offer double the protection of an SPF of 30. In fact, an SPF of 15 offers 93% protection while an SPF of 30 offers 96.7% protection, and an SPF off 60 offers 97.7%.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, and rates continue to rise. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the single biggest risk factor for the development of skin cancer. Ontario's doctors are concerned that high SPF ratings may give parents a false sense of security, allowing their kids to stay out in the sun longer.
It is also important to note that SPF only measures protection against UVB and does not measure UVA protection. Because we know that UVA rays are also harmful, sunscreens that are broad spectrum with coverage for both UVA and UVB rays are the most protective.
"You can't always count on kids to stay in the shade or wear sun protective clothing, so sunscreen is essential. We hope keeping parents informed will help them make the right choices when purchasing and applying sunscreen."
Dr. Doug Weir
Ontario Medical Association
"As dermatologists, we recommend SPF 30, but make sure it is a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It is also very important that both adults and kids apply sunscreen liberally and reapply at least every two hours."
Dr. Samir Gupta
OMA Section on Dermatology
OMA Sun Tips:
- When possible, find shade and avoid sun exposure during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.);
- Wear sun protective clothing and a hat;
- If you or your kids are going to be in the sun, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30;
- Apply liberally and reapply at least every two hours;
- Sunscreens can be water and sweat resistant, but never fully waterproof. Be sure to apply more often if you or your kids are swimming.
For more information :
OMA Ontario Medical Association
150 Bloor Street West, Suite 900
Canada, M5S 3C1