Concerns raised about potential safety impact of online sunscreen guides, including Environmental Working Group's annual

SKIN: The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine®
Editorial: Overcoming Consumer Challenges in Sunscreen Selection

In our opinion, providers must be aware of the resources patients are using to guide sunscreen purchases so that accurate education can be imparted.”

— Alex M. Glazer, M.D.

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, May 22, 2018 / — Skin cancers are the most common types of malignancy. Although the incidence continues to rise, all major subtypes of skin cancer are highly preventable. Proper sun protection strategies, which include consistent use of sunscreen, have been shown to have a positive impact on skin cancer prevention.

However, sunscreens offer different levels of ultraviolet protection, and the labeling system that denotes the attributes of individual products can be difficult to interpret. As such, it is not uncommon for consumers to turn to other sources beyond physician recommendations (such as online sunscreen guides) to aid in decision making.

In an editorial published in SKIN: The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine®, Alex Glazer, MD, and coauthors raise concerns that, in their opinion, lay online sunscreen rankings are not subject to the same rigorous peer-review process as scientific articles. Specifically, they believe that these ranking systems often place a disproportionate emphasis on theoretical risks of sunscreen ingredients versus their proven protective benefits. For example, the Environmental Working Group’s methodology equally weights non-UV protective factors with the ability to prevent sunburn and future skin cancer, and Consumer Reports has not made their sunscreen grading algorithm available to the public.

Furthermore, Glazer and colleagues believe, in some cases, products that block a greater proportion of UV rays are actually given lower ratings. For example, the online sunscreen guide published by the Environmental Working Group penalizes products with high sun protection factors (due to concerns that a “false sense of protection” could lead to consumers seeking more sun exposure), despite a recent study showing that high SPF products offer superior sunburn protection in real life settings. In the authors’ opinion, this could place users of this type of guidance at increased risk of sunburn and other harmful long-term effects.

Although education in proper sunscreen selection can help ensure maximum protection from the harmful effects of UV radiation, the source of information must be carefully appraised. Dr. Glazer and his colleagues caution that, in their opinion, these types of online sunscreen guides may be misleading to consumers looking for guidance regarding products with the best sun-protective features.

The authors urge medical providers to do more than simply recommend sunscreen. “In our opinion, providers must be aware of the resources patients are using to guide sunscreen purchases so that accurate education can be imparted,” says Glazer, who also encourages all consumers to play an active role and research the methods of any online sunscreen evaluation system that they may utilize.

SKIN: The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine® is a peer-reviewed online medical journal that is the official journal of The National Society for Cutaneous Medicine. The mission of SKIN is to provide an enhanced and accelerated route to disseminate new dermatologic knowledge for all aspects of cutaneous disease.

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(DOI: 10.25251/skin.2.3.3)

Alex M. Glazer, M.D.
University of Arizona
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Source: EIN Presswire