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Sunscreen Takes Some Heat: New Dangers, New Rules

Save your skin, save your life. We’ll look at new research and rules on sunscreen marketing from the FDA.

There are new rules for sunscreen. We'll take a look in hour one. (AP)

There are new rules for sunscreen. We'll take a look in hour one. (AP)

One in five Americans will get skin cancer.

Skin cancer rates are rising. And its victims are getting younger. Younger females, in particular.

With all that, you’d think public health officials would be all over the sunscreen industry to get it right and honest. They haven’t been, until this week.

The Food and Drug Administration, after years of mulling, is out with new rules on the “wild west” that has been sunscreen labeling and marketing.

We buy it, we smear it on, we go to the beach, the pool.

But there is more you need to know.

This hour On Point: saving our skins. New rules and the latest research on skin, sunscreen, and the sun.

- Tom Ashbrook


Gardiner Harris, public health reporter for the New York Times. His article is “F.D.A. Unveils New Rules About Sunscreen Claims.”

Jennifer Lucas, dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dara O’Rourke, associate professor of environmental and labor policy at University of California at Berkeley and co-founder of GoodGuide.com. See their sunscreen ratings here.

David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. Find your product in their 2011 sunscreen guide here, and get your questions answered in their FAQ.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Anonymous

    Looking forward to hearing the show tomorrow. This is a very serious issue an one that we must address. The threat of melanoma is real and there is not enough attention being paid to the dangers of UV rays, be it natural or artificial. http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/06/assaulted-by-sunlight-truth-about-skin.html

  • Anonymous

    Looking forward to hearing the show tomorrow. This is a very serious issue an one that we must address. The threat of melanoma is real and there is not enough attention being paid to the dangers of UV rays, be it natural or artificial. http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/06/assaulted-by-sunlight-truth-about-skin.html

  • Anonymous

    Looking forward to hearing the show tomorrow. This is a very serious issue an one that we must address. The threat of melanoma is real and there is not enough attention being paid to the dangers of UV rays, be it natural or artificial. http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/06/assaulted-by-sunlight-truth-about-skin.html

  • Lallansmith

    How dangerous are sunscreen ingrediants that contain “oxy…” or “benzo…”? Are sunscreens with titanium dioxide healthier?

  • Jeffreysc

    If only we could find a way to block the sun’s rays from hitting the earth.  Smog anyone!

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Careful, folks.  You’re advocating Truth in Advertising!  Madison Avenue would probably close down, political spin doctors would have to find honest work, the Republicans would have to prove they have created jobs that pay more than their tax cuts for the last fifteen years, the list goes on and on, and on, and on, and on. 

    • Mill

      And the Democrats don’t deserve a mention in your rant? Because you are a Democrat? Tsk..tsk.

  • Samantha, Buffalo, NY

    From the report, it looks like there is no sunscreen that is safe.
    Wish it was easier to pick a better one!!! Help!!!

    I just came from all over body scan at the dermatologist’ office, I am 30, looking for troubled moles and spots. Everything turned out to be fine. I want to do those body scans yearly, but the doctor said that I can come back if/when any issues arise, and not yearly. I thought we were supposed to do those scans once per year?

    I also, just bought Alba Botanicals Kid’s NATURAL Sunscreen of SPF45. There was another one, Alba Botanicals Kid’s MINERAL Sunscreen of SPF30.
    I chose the NATURAL one thinking it was safer. It’s not!



  • Eleanor

    The problem for young women is two fold. First, the weekly, even daily use of tanning beds and secondly, the perception that “pale skin” is ugly. All skin is beautiful, so long as it is healthy. Socital perceptions about skin color (being to pale, or racial discrimination because of dark skin) is unacceptable.

  • RM Guy

    In 1978, I was admonished to use only lotion containing PABA and that I’d get cancer if I didn’t.  3 or 4 years later, it was revealed that PABA is carcinogenic.  Am just waiting for the next shoe to drop.

  • Erica

    I really hope the FDA does not ban the over-50 SPF.  The increased benefit of using an SPF 70 may be marginal, but as a very fair-skinned, easily-burned person, I find that the SPF 50 just does NOT work for me anymore.  I don’t go outside in summer without SPF 70, and it WORKS!

  • Beth

    Please speak to the danger of many of the chemicals found in sunscreens! 

    Also, how effective is the sunprotective clothing now being marketed?

  • Stephanie

    Will you please discuss the affects of some of the ingredients in sunscreen, such as OXYBENZONE, on children? Specifically, the developmental and reproductive toxicity? The Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ rates the safety of cosmetics on a scale of 1-10, “1″ being least toxic and “10″ being most toxic. Many leading brands rate as at least a “7″ on this scale. This scares me!http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ rates the safety of cosmetics on a scale of 1-10, “1″ being least toxic and “10″ being most toxic. Many leading brands rate as at least a “7″ on this scale. This scares me!

  • Maggie in Boston

    What constitutes a melanoma?  We all have freckles and moles, but when should your listeners consult their doctor?  Thanks for an excellent show as always.  

  • Bon

    Is there an expiration date for sunscreen?

    • Samantha, Buffalo, NY

      Yes, should be right on the bottle.

  • christine, vermont

    What is the effect of sunscreen on Vitamin D production?

  • Kurt

    Sun damage is cumulative. How to get kids, especially kids who play outdoor sports and who have many practices on the field, to wear sunscreen when it stings the eyes so much? And coaches who don’t insist on kids’ use of sunscreen. Public education on this needs to hit the athletic fields early on!

  • Gary

    … of course I know what’s in my sunscreen … it’s got “Active ingredients: Homosalate 2%, Octinoxate 7.5%, |Octisalate 5%, Oxybenzone 4%, Titanium Dioxide 5% …” and a slew of “inactive ingredients” too long to mention. What else do I need to know? … actually I keep covered up at the beach … makes the most sense.

  • Cathy

    Last night I went to the Bath & Body store in Ames, Iowa.  I listened as the college age clerk and college age customer (both females) discussed how they never tan because they don’t want their skin to age at all, much less too fast.  The customer was buying a self-tanner.   

  • Jenna

    How often should sunscreen be re-applied?  For example, I put spf 30 on every morning, do I need to re-apply before I walk home from work at 4:30pm? 

  • Debtall289

    Yes, I too really hope that you will discuss the chemicals and the safety of using these sunscreen products.  I am very chemically sensitive and find I feel quite sick (flu-ish) when I have applied the average sunscreen to my face.  I take this as a sign that my body is sensitive to these products.  Only zinc products feel ‘ok’.

  • Ellen Dibble

    What about people with eczema, psoriasis, allergic dermatitis, where skin might be absorbing more…  I’m looking at a sunscreen I’ve had for years, with 20 chemicals in it.  It is scary enough to contemplate that I stay inside and keep my curtains pulled on bright days.

  • Alison

    for children: don’t swim shirts work well? (long sleeve) and hats — both to be worn in the water and out.. this should be in addition to applying sunscreen, waiting for it to dry and reapplying often. people should use self tanners to get color and use block and hats in the sun. Its not that hard to figure out.

  • patricia

    Sunscreen is made of chemicals. Our skin is an organ that directly absorbs into our systems. Let’s do the math. We are naïve to think that there are no harmful side effects from slathering an ounce of this stuff all over us several times a day over several months. Sunscreen is toxic. We are trying to prevent one problem by creating another. 

  • Kirsten

    I was diagnosed with melanoma 3 months ago despite using sunscreen religiously and being only 36 yrs old. I have two red-headed, green-eyed toddlers and am VERY concerned about their contracting melanoma as adults. Two questions:
    (1) do physical blockers also need to be applied 30 minutes in advance?
    (2) do physical blockers expire in the same way that chemical blockers do?

  • Anonymous

    Why are liberal government bureaucrats burdening sunscreen businesses with excessive regulations and taking away out right to get skin cancer? 

  • Mary, Boston

    What about the need for “Vitamin” D and all the diseases that occur from a lack of sun exposure?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I heard that there was a hole in the ozone layer (until the kind of chemicals used in aerosols was changed), and that hole was over Australia.  Well, we improved our aerosols, but apparently more UV is coming through regardless.

  • Miss Pie

    I’ve never been able to get an answer to the following question: Let’s say I apply a sunscreen in the morning that will protect me for 6 hours, then get 30 minutes of sun exposure on my way to work. I then spend the next 8 hours in an air-conditioned office. Am I still protected at the end of the day when I go home?

  • Samantha, Buffalo, NY

    The EWG guide starts Coppertone’s sunscreens at 3.
    The GoodGuide .com lists Coppertone’s sunscreens at 7.

    What are those numbers mean? How come one site lists them as safer than the other?

  • Julia

    We have sun-phobia in our house.  Some members of my family want me to keep my kids inside from 10am to 4pm during the summer.  There are studies out there that indicate sunscreen contains carcinogens. Where does the happy medium lie?  I think the benefits of being outside need to be factored into the health equation.

  • Paul

    What are the rates of skin cancer around the world as apposed to the US?

  • Kate

    I have lupus and I’m extremely sun-sensitive. The sunscreens over SPF 50 do have a value for me, especially in providing more of the physical blocking.  I have used and can use zinc oxide, but cosmetically it’s obviously better to have a blocking agent in a sunscreen that can be rubbed in and more or less disappear.  It appears, though, that the  ultra high-SPF sunscreens will no longer be available after next year.

  • guest

    What about the Vitamin D production, especially for people with dark skin? How do we break out of choosing between low Vitamin levels (and its
    consequences, including bone density loss) or skin cancer?   

    I was told by my physician that only through exposing my body without any clothing to the sun, 20-30 minutes a day, every day, without sunscreen, will my body be able to bring its Vitamin D levels to normal.

  • Michael Barberio

    If the FDA was serious about reducing skin cancer, wouldn’t it make sense for them to ban oxybenzone and parabens, which are known carcinogens?   I couldn’t find a single one without oxybenzone at several stores, and had to special order one with just zinc oxide.

    The FDA ‘s action will increase the use of these carcinogenic chemicals, as people use and reapply them more often.

  • Tomfama

    Wha do outdoor workers, like farmers, construction workers, etc do?  Are cancer rates higher for them?

  • Mike

    How can dermatologists recommend ZERO sun exposure, when Vitamin D is obtained through sun exposure?  Lack of Vitamin D is implicated in a whole host of health conditions.  It seems that this situation calls for some more nuanced recommendations rather than simple alarmist prescriptions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kraig.richard Kraig Richard

    Kids in Australia (ive heard) have to wear hats to school because of the Sun. Should our kids wear hats. Do they work ?

  • Madgersh

    please address expiration dates on sunscreens.  can I use the lotions I bought last year?

    • Cherie Blair

      of course   you are best to use the one from 1921 (year)

  • Rhiannon Hayes

    My mother has been after all of us in the family to wear sunscreen.She has had many melanomas removed due to sun exposure. 
    Until I read an article about how destructive skin cancer is I didn’t take her advice seriously. The article told the story of a woman who was sun worshiper who found a growth on her ear. That growth was cancer which invaded her lymph nodes by  her ear & resulted in tumors in her neck & armpits.. She survived but had so many challenges & medical procedures. Perhaps you can share with the listeners just how skin cancer attacks the body. I use sunscreen daily & get a skin cancer check once a year. So important!

  • Lindy

    Australia has been dealing with increases in skin cancer through public policy.  This includes 1) hats on all kids every time they’re outdoors 2) highly effective sunscreens.  In  addition, there are lines of sun protection swimwear for kids and adults.  Check out: http://www.stingray.com.au/

  • Guest

    Are these chemicals safe for our oceans, etc?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beverly-Swadron-Dust/1459089357 Beverly Swadron Dust

    My kids are both fair and burn pretty easily.  I have discovered that Blue Lizard zinc oxide-based sunscreens work the best.  The blocker really keeps them from burning.  It’s gotten harder to find this year as I believe they got a lot of good publicity. Their website http://www.crownlaboratories.com/bluelizard/ says that their manufacturing team has been hard at work making more.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve used this on my son for a couple of years and it really has worked best.

  • Sushiatsu

    Yes! Please address the growing concerns that chemical sunscreen products & addition of vitamin A CONTRIBUTE to cancers, skin and otherwise.  One quick link:

    Rise is skin cancer also correlates to rise in sunscreen use….

  • Alison

    I’m not convinced that “industry” is dragging its feet. wouldn’t industry jump at the chance to launch a new line of products based on new FDA guidelines, charging a premium for products and fueling sales with a healthy dose of fear that would actually be beneficial to people…?

  • Sam Kopper

    I used to produce national live radio concerts and have a photo of Elton John sitting next to me. He is snow white English and I, though also of English descent, with blonde/red hair, appear so dark I could be Portuguese. I look like a freak. I’m 65 and spent most of my youth up through my 30s, trying to be Mr Man Tan. Since my mid 40s, when I found my first basil cell carcinoma, I visit my dermatologist like most people do their dentists – twice a year – and a basil cell carcinoma or two is discovered and removed, on average, every 18 months or two years. IT IS ABSURD. that tanning salons are legal which pot is not! Which one actually produces demonstrably dangerous results?

  • Hildreth Curran

    Why is sunscreen for the face so much more expensive sunscreen for the rest of the body? I recently bought sunscreen for a trip to Egypt, and a tiny tuby of “face” sunscreen was three times the price of regular sunscreen.  Is this due to its ingredients or is this simply marketing??

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      It’s marketing, and that facial lotions have ingredients that don’t leave the skin oily and shiny.  This is a bigger issue with women, who want to wear makeup with the sunscreen.

  • Michael C

    1) Connect the dots!  US sunscreens’ inadequate A block but burn protection led to over exposure contributing to rise in melanoma.

    2) Talk about clothing and hats and avoiding exposure during peak hours of high sun, ie. when sun is over 45 degrees or so above horizon, and the false security of cloudy days.

  • Midwifevicki

    The in some information that our current sunscreens are damaging coral reefs. Do you have information about that?

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    .  When Peter Jennings developed, and died, from lung cancer it sparked a huge interest in smoking cessation.  But where are the celebrities talking about the damage tanning does?  Until Hollywood and the fashion industry, and maybe a major star that
    isn’t over 50 gets skin cancer, it’s not going to register with

    I have a 4yo daughter that knows that before she can go out and play we all have to slather up with loiton (50SPF), then we go watch cartoons while “it dries” (as she understands it).  Kids have to grow up with this stuff, like they did with buckling up. Gen Xers had to train themselves to buckle up. Anyone starting to drive after 1984, or so, has always had to do it and it’s second nature.  This is what we have to do with this generation.

    Here’s a freebie for the ad council:  Make a commercial with Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) and Robert Pattison (Twilight) saying, “It’s cool to be pasty.” 

    Or go graphic and show young people suffering from melanoma, and the special B&W pics that show the damage that UV rays cause.

  • graham

    I echo the comments about Vitamin D absorption. I am an avid sunscreen user and would not detract from any of its benefit – but Dr. Lucas said that any amount of UV exposure is harmful, and that is just not true. Vitamin D is necessary, and UV absorption is required. We evolved beautifully to use the sun’s spectrum. That said, it does not take much, and pretty much all of us get the exposure we need from open windows and walking the dogs, etc. without full body suits on. 

  • Jimclayton

    As a 25 year survivor of melanoma I have used sunscreens religiously but lately I have also used shirts that have a SPF rating.  Is this clothing effective?

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      Yes, but only clothing that is either thick, or designed to block UV rays. Most people think that a T-shirt will block rays. The average T-shirt has an SPF for UVB of about 4.  That’s slightly better than nothing.

  • Michael C

    What’s the effect of washing all this sun screen into lakes, rivers and oceans  on the food chain, other life forms?

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      It’s virtually nothing when you consider what industry dumps in watersheds every minute.  I’d be more worried about someone flushing toilet bowl cleaner than some SPF residue.

  • Jack

    Why are skin cancers DECREASING?  In the 50′s-70′s, we all used baby oil and aluminum foil boards to get as much burning rays as possible.  Few people used any blocks.  Now, 40 years later, we have increases in skin cancer in young people and it’s attributable to lack of sunscreens?  And why don’t Southern states have double the rates of the northeast where our time in the sun is less than half of the residents down south?  

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      They’re INCREASING. I don’t know what information you’re reading, but it’s incorrect.  Much of the young people getting skin cancer is thought to be caused by the increase of indoor tanning, where they not only get more UV exposure than they would at a day outdoors, but those rays go deeper, effecting the sub-dermal skin.

  • Liz

    does skin tone or natual inclination to tan versus burn have anything to do with one’s risk of skin cancer or melanoma

  • Samantha, Boston

    what about the link between the chemicals in sunscreen and organ toxicity? it’s scary to see some of the potential risks of the ingredients. cosmeticsdatabase.org

  • Madgersh

    regarding dermatologists:  I’m supposed to be checked every 6 months after a melanoma was removed.  I needed to change a dermatology appt. and had to wait SIX months to reschedule.  What does this say about our healthcare?

  • Devoyr

    I’ve heard that if you had a bad case of sunburn as a child, that you are more likely to get skin cancer later in life.  Is there any truth to that?

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      I’ve read and heard from many Dr.’s and people that know what they’re talking about (like my Dr.’s) that one bad sunburn in your youth can increase your odds of getting skin cancer several times. 

      Also, we get something like 85% of the sun damage before we’re even out of high school. It’s a cumulative thing.  

  • Sully, Cambridge

    Help! My mother is a “sun goddess”! She (a white person with olive-y skin) lives in Miami and sunbathes nearly every day with and SPF of 2.

     She  thinks the anti-sun information is a medical fad. Is there anything that I can say or do to convince her to stop this behavior??

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      I wish I had pics of my dad before he died. He was a sun worshipper since he was in WWII, We actually have pics of him catching rays with 3 foot high snowbanks in the driveway.  When people used to tell me how great his tan was I would tell them that by the time he died that his skin would make  someone a great leather jacket. When he was older those same people would ask about his skin and I’d remind them what I said about the leather jacket, and why I changed my mind early. I did try to get tan a few times in my youth, but my skin thinks I’m a redhead.

      Find some pictures of people that baked for years. Most people are not George Hamilton. They look splotchy, wrinkly, and older than they are. Or better, find pics of people her age suffering from melanoma and other UV ray influenced issues.

  • anon

    what about the effects on the ocean and ocean life of the chemicals in sunscreen?

  • Smhuppe

    You must address other issues. the skin is the largest organ of elimination and toxins will be removed through the skin especially if other organs are compromised.
    There are plenty of examles of folks with extreme sun exposure who are fine and others who never go in sun/lots of sunscreen and get cancer. lots of concern about sunscreen ingredients being dangerous too.

  • Lauren C.

    Many of the children I will be in charge of this summer are dark-skinned Haitian immigrants.  How do I convince them that they should care about sun screen?  I feel that there’s a general opinion that dark-skinned people not only burn less, but don’t have to worry about skin cancer.  Is that true?

  • Alma

    I highly recommend Badger Sunscreen. It is broad spectrum, UVA/UVB, non nano, water resistant and not tested on animals. It’s good stuff!

  • TheWalkman

    What ever  happened with the miracle product from L’Oreal called Mexoryl?  It had been approved in Europe years ago and seemed like a great product but was never approved by the FDA.

    What’s the real story?

  • Kurt

    What about the synergistic effect of sunscreens and other medications? Acne medicines often make skin burn much more easily. Some antibiotics as well. Too few people are aware of this when using sunscreen (minimally).

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    The FDA is headed by too many people that kowtow, or just plain in bed, with the commercial and pharmaceutical industries.  It, and other government groups like the CDC, need to be walled off from commercial and political interference and influence, like the GAO is.  Then, and only then, will Americans get their interests truly looked after.

    I always look for lotions that use things like “Helioplex”, Parasol 1789″, and/or “Solaplex” and other European ingredients, that I have researched to be better, safer products that help bock UVA rays better. . Also, I avoid lotions with parabens

  • Kurt

    My kids have dark skin and claim that they don’t need sunscreen. I know that’s not the case. Tom, please have your guests talk about the dangers from the sun to people whose skin is brown to begin with. Thank you.

  • Noreen Jonson

    I have been tracked for over 25 years to watch for skin cancer.  My dermatologists have been consistent in recommending I NOT use any sunblock UNLESS it contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

    This recommendation has not changed – even to date, yet it is becoming more and more difficult to find sunscreen that contain either zinc oxide or titaninium dioxide.  Also, even when I can find a product, it almost always has other ingredients I do NOT want.

    What is the best way to FIND products and, if possible, at a reasonable price?

    • Ls Lobster Sister

      Try TIZO. It has both titanium and zinc oxide.

    • Dalia

       OLAY complete all day UV moisturizer SPF 15 sensitive skin products contain 3% zinc oxide

  • Smhuppe

    We need to balance Omega 3′s and Omega 6″s we need more 3″s!.proven to help

  • Ellen Dibble

    Heavy clothing — the reason for the burkha?  Plenty of sun protection?

  • Katelalley from Shelburne, VT

    What about Helioplex?  What are the Europeans doing differently that we could benefit from?

  • Rebecca

    I’ve heard that a topical application of Vitamin C can be effective as a sunblock. What do your guests feel about this?

    • Ellen Dibble

      Do you know of a vitamin C lotion?  I guess you do…

      • Anonymous

        Orange and Grapefruit juice…

  • Ehobbie

    My problem is Vitamin D deficiency. One way to combat this is to get 15 minutes of sun exposure a day. Where is the happy medium on this?

  • Alison

    europe approved parsol which is one of the chemicals that might cause cancer: http://www.skinbiology.com/toxicsunscreens.html

    (Parsol 1789) May Not Be Safe Either

    In 1997, Europe, Canada, and Australia changed sunscreens to use three
    specific active sunscreen ingredients – avobenzone (also known as Parsol
    1789), titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide – as the basis of sunscreens. In
    the USA, the cosmetic companies have held off this policy as they try to
    sell off their stockpiles of cosmetics containing toxic sunscreens banned
    in other countries.

    However, avobenzone is
    a powerful free radical generator and also should have been banned. Avobenzone
    is easily absorbed through the epidermis and is still a chemical that absorbs
    ultraviolet radiation energy. Since it cannot destroy this energy, it has
    to convert the light energy into chemical energy, which is normally released
    as free radicals. While it blocks long-wave UVA, it does not effectively
    UVB or short-wave UVA radiation, and is usually combined with other sunscreen
    chemicals to produce a “broad-spectrum” product. In sunlight, avobenzone
    degrades and becomes ineffective within about 1 hour.

  • http://twitter.com/jandev Jan Devereux

    It’s not only sunscreen that has toxins. Other personal care products and cosmetics are loaded with them. Here is a great checklist for how to switch to all natural sunscreen and other products: http://practicallygreen.com/actions/personal-care

  • paul

    50% of Americans lack the proper amount of vitamin D. This lack is being linked to the increase in most chronic illness and cancer. The benefits of getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D from the sun far out way the risks of getting skin cancer.

    This show has been an example of bias and perpetuating the myth that the sun is bad for you. Anything in excess can be harmful….but to say that the best solution is to avoid sun altogether by your so called experts is just way misleading. What are the skin cancer rates in places where sunscreen is not used at all? Sunscreen prevents your body from absorbing Vitamin D…and a nutritional supplement is not properly activated by your body with out the use of the sun.

    Please do a show on how the role that vitamin D plays in helping prevent people from getting most cancers and chronic illnesses….an expert to consider would be Dr. Micheal Holick…who has just released a book called the Vitamin D Solution.

  • BHA in Vermont

    The reason the US is behind Europe in product, especially health related, is that our politicians are owned by corporate lobbyists with a single motive: profit. While Europeans as a whole have a degree of social consciousness, much of the US population has a “as long as I get mine” mentality.

    And when I say ‘owned’, I don’t mean purchased outright with bribery but afraid of not getting campaign money for re-election. Don’t p1ss off the NRA with intelligent gun control. Don’t p1ss off big business with regulations on what harm they can do, etc.

    The ‘regulation is a job killer’ argument is political bull sh1t. Companies large and small have proven for decades, centuries, that they care little for the effects they have on the environment and health as long as they can make a buck. Without regulations, we would still have lead in paint, be pouring used oil into the storm sewers, spewing toxins into the air and water, killing birds with DDT.  Want a little Dioxin or some PCBs with that?

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      You are 100% correct. I  have no faith that the federal government exists for anything except to promote corporate interests..at the expense of the middle class.

  • Ken, Vermont

    I have subscribed to consumer reports for years and and purchased their sunscreen best buy No-Ad 45 for myself and my kids. I’m fair skinned and suffered skin cancer on the nose twice. I suspected consumer reports and SPF was not enough information and I discovered Good Guide and the Skin Deep database. I did more research and noticed that vitamin A in my sunscreen could cause skin cancer! This year I switched from the $10 Consumer Reports best buy to a $30 sunscreen called Blue Lizard for myself and to Coppertone Sport SPF 30 spray for the kids (ease of use). Based on the Good Guide and Skin Deep databases these sunscreens have no Vitamin A. Blue Lizard has no Oxybenzone and CopperTone has 4%, less than other sunscreens. In 2010 consumer reports review did not mention chemicals at all. I’m glad to to see in 2011 they do mention the chemicals. I hope they eliminate Vitamin A from sunscreen, as it HAS been linked to skin cancer![1] I hope Consumer Reports 2012 report will consider chemicals in their 2012 ratings. Oxybezone and Vitamin A (its a vitamin, it should be good for you right?!) appear to make sunscreen cheaper but could cause skin cancer, the thing you are trying to prevent! I suppose the best thing is a shirt and a wide brim hat. Trouble is I, and my kids like to play on the beach and in the water. 

    [1] http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/the-problem-with-vitamin-a/

  • Anonymous

    What I picked up from listening to this show was how dysfunctional our government agencies, such as the FDA have become. This is more proof to me how the very structure of government had been disbanded and deliberately made to look bad by the conservative mindset that government is bad. The mere fact that the US is extremely behind the curve on chemicals and drugs that are harmful to us is one more sign of how screwed up our nation has become. This kind of rhetoric, (regulations are bad for business), is now so prevalent as a mantra of the republican party and in some circles of the democrats as well that I fear for our future as a nation. From the FDA to consumer protection to the EPA it seems the to me that we are heading down a very dangerous path.

    I will remind those who have found nostalgia for the 50′s that DDT was once sprayed on our streets and that children often played in the sweet smelling spray as the trucks went by.

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

       As I posted earlier, government agencies like the FDA, CDC, EPA, the Fed, et al, need to be insulated from commercial and political influence, like the GAO is. Why should truth suffer over some ideology?  The FDA is full of people that are too close to Big Pharma and Wall St that want to fast track unsafe drugs. The CDC was forced by one recent administration to re-write science to fit a social agenda. Nasa and NOAA have satellites and equipment sitting in crates for decades because they might actually show human causal in global warming, never mind that these satellites would also address several other issue unrelated to ideologies that science and commercial industry would greatly benefit from.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Good comment and I agree completely. But ya know what? It is not truth that triumphs over ideology…it is the love of money and the corporate bottom line.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thegreenwagon Johnny

    My wife and I own an all-natural product general store in Nashville, TN called The Green Wagon. One of our local vendors has just developed an all-natural, chemical-free sun block. We have tried it on ourselves and our son and it has been very effective. The company that developed it is called Eco Natural Soap. The “Sun Blocker” contains Shea Butter, Kokum Butter, Red Raspberry Seed Oil, and several other oils known for their SPF. So, it is out there, you just have to look in the right places.

  • Hedonistaesthete

    A close friend is a biochemist, responsible for product development and testing for a major international cosmetics company and is very familiar with product development within the industry. For years he has advised friends and family of the following:

    1. Don’t wast money on sunscreens or cosmetics above SPF 50 as these don’t provide additional protection. Cosmetics companies are simply making the >50 lotions more viscous, and *significantly* more expensive. The only sunscreens that are effective above SPF 50 are titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide, which they refer to as ‘blockers,’ but even they wear off, especially in and around water or when perspiring.

    2. Sunscreens take time to begin working–put them on at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors initially, and reapply often.

    3. There are more intense standards for products sold internationally with respect to chemical inclusion–the US has the lowest standards about testing of chemicals. They develop products with higher “health standards” (his words) specifically for international sales. 

    4. Marketing and consumer mentality is is drastically different overseas. For this company’s Asian market for example, the idea is not about tanning, since having porcelain skin is sexy there, so the marketing scheme for Asia is about higher SPF, shimmery creams and fragrances, while the majority of the market share for North America is about tanning, lower SPFs, and greaseless oils and thin creams. In short, most of these companies spend their research dollars on the tanning sector of their product lines, and significantly less on the high SPFs and sun blockers. The one area of their R&D budget that is growing is for “greener” products, but often the only thing greener that emerges is a more earthy label or something involving bees’ wax in the ingredient list. 
     We need better standards. We need truth in advertising. We need doctors and scientists who have the health of their patients/clients in mind and not businesses affecting regulation responsible for setting health standards.Great discussion. Thank you for airing. 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      Good comment, but what about the safety of all of the chemicals and substances in these products? I wonder if they are not as dangerous…or will prove to be, as the sun damage…..

      I have had 2 surgeries in the past year for removal of skin cancer on my face, and want all the protection I can get, but wonder about the chemicals in them.

      Also I suggest that the reason, as you say, the US lags other nations is because the FDA is in bed with corporate America. And is out to protect business interests at the expense of public health and safety. Jail terms are in order for the crooks at the FDA…and most other federal agencies.

  • Dave in CT


    Rand Paul and Dennis Kucinich on CNN

    10 Congressmen, Including Paul, Sue Obama Over Libyan War; Update: Rand & Kucinich on CNN


    Just more evidence that the mainstream Dems and Repubs are a corrupt, corporate, military establishment and that real change, broad enough to reach America, will only come from a progressive/libertarian alliance.

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      You’re an idiot.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        And you have proven yourself a foolish meddler. In case you havent’t noticed, this page is a discussion of skin cancer and sunscreen. Stay with the issue and save the lecture.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      It would be nice if you stayed on topic…..

  • Bhagen6

    Just scrolled down to the comments by accident. How did a post on sunscreen turn into such a stupid and ugly rant about repubs and dems! IT’S SUNSCREEN that is the issue here!!!

  • Norm

    My father died of melanoma at age 80.  I had his doctor examine me and he said I didn’t have to worry because I didn’t have enough moles.  Is this true?  I spent a lot of time in the sun as a surfer as a kid Southern Calif. and lived in Hawaii for 13 years as an adult.

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      Get a new doc. Moles can show early symptoms of cancer, but not having any moles (or “enough”, whatever that means) isn’t a free pass on skin cancer. 

  • Larry Duff

    The highly absorbable nano chemicals in sunscreen (and elsewhere) are very suspect as they have been engineered to be so tiny as to be able to penetrate the walls of cells and do damage. We need more research on this before covering our skin which absorbs most of what is.

    Sun damage is caused by free radicals which damage the cells. Increasing our intake of antioxidants like a good Vitamin C with bioflavanoids (ph neutral, calcium ascorbate form), and other antioxidant foods, food concentrates and substances can help a lot to prevent and protect from all forms of cancer. Do your own research.

    Some info worth considering:


    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

      No amount of antioxidants are going to stop free radicals from damaging skin cells. Free radicals are IN the body and are elements. UV rays are light waves. While antioxidants might strengthen cells from becoming cancerous, or maybe just slow it down to some degree, they aren’t going to stop the damage UV rays cause that a good sunblock will.

      • Mel

        Antioxidants stop free radials from polymerizing (making normal elements into free radicals) thus decreasing the extent of the damage

    • Guest

      There is no research indicating that nano particles are absorbed into the body. They sit on top of the skin. Ask a scientist!

  • Jessica

    I was driving this morning so I could not call in during your show. But, my quick comment to add to the discussion about sunscreen is the prohibitive cost of the “nicer” brands with broad-spectrum coverage. Last week I spent almost $13 bucks on a 3 oz bottle of Nuetrogena.

  • J Monce

    What effect, if any, do the new SPF ratings on clothing have?  Are these only for UVB coverage?  Does this SPF rating diminish with continued washing?

  • Courtney Keys, Columbus Ohio

    Hi Tom -
    I, too, am a young, fair-skinned female.  While the desire to be tan (and thus more ‘attractive’) is strong for me, I tell myself that I will be much more attractive later in life (and look much younger!) than the chronic tanners of today.  Hopefully that can be a motivator for other young women.

  • Jcbluesman


    Why just not cover up with clothing?

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      Perhaps you live in Alaska….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WYYWSZZU25UE4JPYNYYT5BVJ7M Theo

    It is obvious that skin cancer rates are increasing in America, especially among Whites.  Most White people are from high latitudes, especially above the 48th parallel north.  Much of the USA lies below that parallel (the border with Canada lies mostly along the 49th parallel).  Washington DC lies at the 38th parallel north to give you an idea at how far south it is.  Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc lie at the 33rd north parallel, very far south with strong solar radiation.  Meanwhile a city like London is way up there at 51 degrees north.  Solar radiation passes through skin, bone, and so on — and obviously the further south you are the stronger it is.  So it is obvious that if you take light skinned White/Caucasian people who high evolved in high latitudes (the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, Central Europe, etc) and put them down in mid-latitudes as much of the USA encompasses that their skin would suffer due to increased solar radiation.

    Australia actually has the worst skin cancer rates I believe because most  White Australians are descended from light skinned British stock and have moved down under to an area much closer to the equator than their British homeland.

  • Kent

    Her explanation for  the increase in skin cancer over the last 30 years makes little sense. “People aren’t using sunscreen properly.” People were using sunscreen better 30 years ago? Come on.
    Life style differences? We’re indoors more than we were 30 years ago.

    • Jeanette

      It has a LOT to do with the cancer-linked ingredients that are in sunscreens and lotions that we slather on our bodies and our children’s bodies for years and years.  Remember this fact:  in Europe there are over 1100 ingredients banned from personal care products like lotions.  In the US, about ten.  See http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.org for the research from thousands of scientists.

      • Guest

        The 1100 ingredients banned from personal care products in Europe is a WEAK argument. This list includes things that have NEVER been added to cosmetic products in the history of man – like gasoline. Read the list before you cite it as a source!

  • Krishna A Pribadi

    What about pregnant, nursing women and young infants?I’ve heard that some of the ingredients can have an effect on hormones, etc. What about other effects? What is your guests opinions?

  • Jules

    Talk about specially-made clothing with 50+ SPF! (I think with clothing it’s called something else. Great especially for kids who resist sunscreen; good for EVERYONE. Very comfortable & light-weight; I swear by it. Can be swim clothing, everyday clothing, etc.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WYYWSZZU25UE4JPYNYYT5BVJ7M Theo

    The best thing you can do for your skin as a light skinned redhead or blonde is move further north, preferably somewhere cloudier: Oregon, Washington, Maine, Canada, Europe, etc.

    We have a whole bunch of blondes and redheads here in the American South (below the 40th parallel north latitude) wrecking their skin solely due to the fact that they are mostly of British stock and live so far south in a very UV intense region.

  • Anonymous

    what about soy milk and sun protection. i noticed over on summer (I have lots of sun exposure) without regularly drinking soy milk, yes I lost weight, but my facial skin aged and tan was more krinkly. whereas the skin is a lot more fair with a healthier diet and soy milk.

    i sweat a lot so sun screen would be a waste. So what is the roll of diet and health.

  • Kspm

    why is the incident of cancer increasing?
    I am,  60′s teenage tanner and the incident of cancer is now increasing?
    And what about the need for vitamin D for bone health?

  • Kpektas13

    does anyone know where i can find the story about the 8-year-old boy who was talking about death? it aired earlier tonight, at around 8:20ish. i was touched. where can i listen to that again?

  • Laura

    get Ombrelle from Canadian drug mart-has mexoryl-alternate it with Australian Blue Lizard line of blockers. Try on line if you can’t find them-it has been researched-these two lines in conjunction or alternating with each other is THE best protection. Always-sunglasses, hats as well. The US products are way behind, even with this FDA attempt.

  • Catherine Boulanger

    My question concerns sunpoisoning. How can my granddaughter and I keep from getting sun poisoning? What are the dangers of getting repeated sunpoisoning?

  • Creative Jenkins

    What about African American skin. Do we need to use more or less or is there a difference in usage?

    • Kelly Persich

      Yes, they do.  I would say the same is needed.  The issue with levels of UVA/UVB affects everyone.  Thanks to the hole in the ozone.

    • Sharonanony

      you are the silly black ass, all expect you to be

  • Melissa

    I became suspicious of sunscreens last year and stopped using them. I tend to stay in the shade, wear a hat and go out in the sun only for brief periods, trying to learn to gauge just how much sun my body was comfortable with. I found that I don’t get burned much and do develop a healthy tan that builds up over time, even though I’m very fair skinned. 

    My feeling is we should all go back to Victorian cotton bathing suits with pantaloons, as unsexy as they are : )

  • Pingback: Rethinking Sunscreen « New Urban Habitat

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  • John Bradstreet

    While the new rules are long overdue and welcome they still leave a lot of questions as to the safety of some of these products. The best thing to do is stay out of the sun during peak hours and cover up.

  • Pingback: Michelle Cusolito: Sun Safety Redux « NESCBWI Kidlit Reblogger

  • BenGjones

    One thing the interviewees didn’t point out is that human migration over long distances has been made much easier and far more rapid since the 18th century, meaning that people who have a chain of ancestors from a relatively high latitude area are now in areas of much lower latitudes. The opposite effect occured
    in the slave trade and has led to Vitamin D deficiencies in darker skinned peoples from lower latitudes forcibly displaced to higher latitudes.

  • donny_t

    I’m no scientist but here’s what makes sense to me: we spend all day indoors, under a roof and have done so for many generations now, changing our genetic expressions. Then we go out and spend all day in the sun at the beach, of course we’re gonna get adverse effects. Factor that in with unhealthy diets which poison our bodies and it’s a breeding ground for cancerous elements. So to say that the sun causes skin cancer is rather perplexing because humans have been living under the sun for over 200,000 years. I’d be more concerned about the chemicals in the sunscreen.

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson watches from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of a preseason NFL football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

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Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

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