By Krystle Z.
I grew up in deep South Texas where almost every day felt like summer, and I spent many of those days enjoying the beautiful beaches of South Padre Island. I recently visited home armed with “Waterproof SPF 60” sunscreen. I came back sunburn free, but I found out that starting next summer, I may not be able to find any sunscreens with that label.The Food and Drug Administration recently announced new requirements for the safety, effectiveness, and marketing of sunscreens. The main changes include:
Sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB can be labeled “Broad Spectrum SPF”, and the use of claims to reduce the risk of skin cancer will be limited to sunscreens that have a Broad Spectrum SPF ≥ 15.
The FDA prohibits sunscreens from using “waterproof”, “sweatproof”, or “sunblock” on the label. Sunscreens can make claims of water resistance, but they must indicate how long the sunscreen is effective in conditions of swimming or sweating.
“Drug Facts” will be required on all labels.
A proposed rule by the FDA would cap the use of SPF value on labels to “50+” because there is limited evidence to suggest that a sunscreen with a SPF > 50 is more effective than a SPF 50 sunscreen.
The new regulations aim to help consumers choose and use sunscreen more effectively, which may help reduce the incidence of skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. Sunscreens protect against the damaging UV rays of the sun and a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also provide some protection. Although there have been only a few randomized controlled trials, numerous animal trials suggest that some phytochemicals may protect the skin against UV irradiation induced inflammation and DNA damage. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will provide more benefits than just reducing one's risk of skin cancer; therefore, I am an advocate of choosing the whole food. However, increasing the effectiveness of sunscreens by adding in fruit and/or vegetable extracts could be the next best thing. A couple of examples:
Black Raspberries: Mice that were treated with a topical gel containing black raspberry extract after each UVB exposure (3 times/week for 25 weeks) had significantly lower tumor incidence and tumor size compared to mice that were treated with a topical gel without the extract. The author's suggested that the anthoycanins in the berries, which are rapidly absorbed through the skin, may have reduced the harmful effects of UVB exposure by decreasing inflammation and oxidative DNA damage.
Resveratrol: Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and red wine, was administered topically to mice either 30 minutes before or 5 minutes after each UVB exposure (2 times/week for 28 weeks). The resveratrol-treated mice (both pre- and post- UVB exposure) developed tumors later than the control animals and had significantly lower tumor incidence and tumor multiplicity (tumors/mouse). Interestingly, pre- and post-treatment with resveratrol had similar effectiveness, and this study further suggested that resveratrol was chemoprotective by reducing the expression of Survivin, a regulator of cell survival that is overexpressed in numerous cancers.
More human trials are needed to understand the bioavailability and efficacy of the potentially chemoprotective compounds, but the animal research looks very promising. Next time you head out to enjoy a warm summer day, don't forget the sunscreen, and while I wouldn't recommend covering yourself in blackberry or grape extract, why not pack a snack of fresh berries and grapes for good measure.