Health & Medicine

Summer skin protection

Think you know all about protecting your skin from the sun?

Not so fast.

Take this true-or-false quiz. With the summer sun just weeks away, we offer this refresher course.

True or false?

1. SPF refers to a product's ability to protect against UVA and UVB rays.

2. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new compound that protects against UVA light.

3. Texas has the highest rate of melanoma cases in the U.S.

4. Helioplex is a new ingestible form of sun protection.

5. More than 90 percent of skin cancer is preventable.

Answers to our true/false quiz

1. False. The sun protection factor applies only to UVB rays.

2. True. Most sunscreens in the U.S. have traditionally mainly blocked UVB waves. Last year, the FDA approved a new organic sunscreen compound called ecamsule. Also known as Mexoryl SX, the compound had been available in Europe and Canada since 1993 and is considered by many to be a better sunscreen because it blocks wrinkle-causing UVA waves.

3. False. Texas has the third highest rate of melanoma cases in the U.S., after California and Florida.

4. False. Helioplex is a form of sunscreen protection trademarked by Neutrogena. According to the company, Helioplex contains two sunscreens (avobenzone and oxybenzone) that protect from UVA and UVB rays.

5. True. More than 90 percent of all skin cancer is preventable because it is caused by excessive exposure to the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.



All the buzz this year is about new ways to block wrinkle-causing UVA rays.

Last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new compound called ecamsule for use in sunscreens sold in this country. Ecamsule, an organic filter that protects against UVA rays, has been included in sunscreens sold in Canada and Europe since 1993 under the name of Mexoryl SX.

Right now, the only over-the-counter product sold in the United States that uses ecamsule is L'Oreal's Anthelios SX. The sunscreen, which has an SPF of 15, also contains two other protective ingredients, avobenzone and octocrylene. Researchers say ecamsule offers longer protection and is better at absorbing UVA rays than anything else available. Anthelios SX is available at A 3.4-ounce tube of the daily moisturizing cream sells for $29.

Another ingredient to watch for is Helioplex, a Neutrogena-patented stabilized form of avobenzone (Parsol1789), the most widely used ingredient for blocking UVA rays. Helioplex breaks down slower than regular avobenzone so it offers longer protection. Neutrogena patented Helioplex for use in many of its sun-protection products but says the most popular is its new Fresh Cooling Sunblock Gel, which protects with SPF 30 against a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. It is available at Target and other stores for $8.99.



A calculator that tells you when you've had enough sun. The UV Hawk calculates the UV index and combines it with your sunscreen's SPF, your skin tone and the temperature to determine how long it's safe to stay out in the sun. When the designated time elapses, an alarm sounds to tell you time is up. The Hawk's countdown timer alternates with a display that shows the percent of your allotted time remaining. The portable, battery-operated calculator weighs 2 ounces and is widely available online for $29.99. Visit for more information.

Dietary supplements. Heliocare and the SunPill are two new dietary supplements that protect against sunburn from the inside out. They are combinations of antioxidants designed to rid the body of damaging free radicals produced in the process of tanning and burning the skin. Neither replaces hats and sunscreens, but both claim to add an extra layer of protection.

Dr. Patrick Walsh, a Fort Worth dermatologist who specialized in melanoma research at the University of Colorado, says it only makes sense that antioxidants -- which protect cells from the damaging effects of tanning, burning and other sources of oxidation -- can prevent some wrinkling, brown spots, leathery skin and other photo aging, and they are considered safe to use.

"We need more placebo-controlled research to determine their exact effects on photo aging, and you still need to use a broad-spectrum sunblock, but antioxidants should help protect the skin from sun damage," Walsh says.

Heliocare is available from some dermatologists and through special order from major pharmacies. For more information or to order, go to The SunPill is available online. For more information, go to Price is about $30 for a 30-day supply.

A wash-in SPF treatment for clothing. SunGuard takes a simple cotton T-shirt with an average SPF of 5 and gives it the ability to block out 96 percent of UV rays and provide SPF 30. The effectiveness on fabrics is the same wet or dry and lasts through about 20 washings. It sells for about $2 a packet and can be ordered by calling 866-871-3157. Or visit for more information and to buy it the product.

Facial cleansers with SPF. Sunscreens have been available in moisturizers, lip balms and liquid makeup for more than 20 years, but now several facial cleansers provide SPF 15. One to look for: Freeze 24.7 Ice Shield, available at Nordstrom and through for $48.

A skin-care line with niacin. NIA24 products contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as well as niacin to prevent "and repair" skin damage from the sun. NIA24 protects against sun damage from UVA and UVB rays while improving skin tone, texture and hyper pigmentation. It is available through plastic surgeons and dermatologists in Fort Worth and Dallas. Go to and click on "Physician Locator."



- Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the United States

- In 2007, skin cancer will be diagnosed in more than 1 million people in this country

- Almost 60,000 Americans will be told they have malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer

- About 26,000 Americans will die of melanoma this year

SOURCE: American Cancer Society



The American Cancer Society urges consumers to learn the A, B, C, D and E's of moles and melanoma so you can alert your doctor to any of the key warning signs as soon as you detect one:

A - Asymmetry: Early melanomas are usually asymmetrical (a line through the middle would not create matching halves). Common moles are round and symmetrical.

B - Border irregularity: Borders of early melanomas are often uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Common moles have smoother, more even edges.

C - Color variability: Common moles are usually one shade of brown. Various shades of brown, tan or black are often the first sign of melanoma. As melanoma progresses, shades of red and blue may appear.

D - Diameter: Early melanomas tend to grow larger than common moles, generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser.

E - Evolving: Any significant change in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (crusting, bleeding), or shades of color should be considered suspicious.



Melanoma risk factors include light skin color, family history of skin cancer, atypical moles and freckles, and a history of severe sunburn occurring early in life. The American Academy of Dermatology, National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following tips for safer skin:

- Seek the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

- Do not burn.

- Don't forget the SPF lip balm.

- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. Look for one that blocks UVA and UVB rays.

- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen, 30 minutes before going outside. Re-apply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

- Keep newborns out of the sun, and use sunscreen on babies older than 6 months.

- Examine your skin regularly to become familiar with existing growths, so that you will notice any changes.

- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.



For more information on skin cancer and sun protection, go to:

Skin Cancer Foundation,

American Academy of Dermatology,

American Cancer Society,

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery,

National Cancer Institute,