Survey Reveals Lack of Awareness That U.S. Sunscreens Provide Insufficient Protection Against Skin Cancer

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Results of a national survey on skin cancer and sun safety conducted by Harris Interactive were announced today by the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) and the Citizens for Sun Protection (CSP). The survey revealed some startling facts regarding public misperceptions of the level of skin cancer protection provided by U.S. sun screen products.

Americans deserve the same type of protection

Results of a national survey on skin cancer and sun safety conducted by Harris Interactive were announced today by the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) and the Citizens for Sun Protection (CSP). The survey revealed some startling facts regarding public misperceptions of the level of skin cancer protection provided by U.S. sun screen products. Among the top findings were:

  • Despite high levels of awareness about the two types of cancer-causing sun rays (UVA and UVB), 69% of respondents were not aware that the U.S. government requires sunscreens to provide protection from the UVB rays that are the primary cause of sunburn, but not from the UVA rays that also can cause skin cancer and premature aging.
  • Similarly, 83% of respondents are not aware that more effective sunscreen protection is available in almost every other country, but not in the U.S.
  • 75% of respondents would be supportive of new FDA requirements to make sunscreens available in the U.S. just as effective as those available outside in other countries.
  • 88% of respondents support that the government should require labels to clearly indicate whether sunscreens provide adequate protection from cancer-causing UVA radiation in addition to preventing sunburn.
  • More than one-third of Americans believe using sunscreen is the most important action they can take to protect them from skin cancer. But not all sunscreens provide sufficient and equal protection from skin cancer. Those available in this country do not provide the necessary UVA protection to prevent skin cancer, despite the fact that 50% of those surveyed believed that using sunscreens fully protects them from the harmful rays of the sun.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in America, with more than 1.2 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually, more than all new cases of lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. More than 10,000 people die from skin cancer annually, representing a skin cancer death rate of one every hour.

EIC has been involved in skin cancer prevention and sun safety awareness efforts for the last three years, encouraging the promotion of sun safety and protection in entertainment storylines and public service campaigns. EIC elected to partner with CSP in commissioning the survey in order to become more educated about the public's knowledge of the issue and public sentiment on actions that might be taken to improve sun protection in this country.

Most other nations require sunscreens to provide both types of UV radiation protection. "Americans deserve the same type of protection," stated Bob Hurley of CSP. "The FDA should update its current regulations, last updated in 1999, to require more complete skin cancer protection from sunscreens by requiring both UVB and UVA protection."

"The public mistakenly believes that if they are not getting a sun burn, they are protected from all UV radiation from the sun," said Dr. Jeff Ashley, a dermatologist and former president of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Dermatological Society. "Yet current FDA regulations only require protection from UVB rays, the kind that cause sunburn, and not UVA rays that can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause premature skin aging and skin cancer."

Brian Dyak, president of EIC, emphasized that "Clearly the American public is unaware of their lack of protection from the sun and from skin cancer, and they deserve to be educated so that they can determine how to better take action to protect themselves - whether that means wearing more protective clothing, further limiting sun exposure, purchasing more sufficient sunscreen from abroad, or promoting that manufacturers take action to improve their products for the U.S. as has been done in other countries." Dyak suggested that the entertainment media could be a strong conduit for increasing awareness of the dangers and ways that consumers can take action.

Nearly all skin cancers are caused from over exposure to the sun. At current rates, one in five Americans has a lifetime potential of developing skin cancer. The American public has a poor track record of adopting good habits to prevent skin cancer while enjoying the outdoors. Providing sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection will enable them to take an important step forward in reducing skin cancer rates and protecting their health.

EIC, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1983 by leaders of the entertainment industry to bring the power and influence of the industry to bear on health and social issues. Among the issues EIC addresses are: drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and addiction; firearm safety and injury prevention; sun safety; human trafficking; terrorism and homeland security; mental health and bipolar disorder; post traumatic stress disorder; diabetes; and HIV/AIDS prevention. EIC's website is located at http://www.eiconline.org.

Citizens for Sun Protection is an organization of parents, cancer survivors, healthcare professionals, business advocates and community leaders who believe there is need for comprehensive sunscreen standards that require broad spectrum protection from harmful UV rays. For more information go to http://www.citizensforsunprotection.org.

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