New 50+ sunscreen no ‘suit of armour’

THE Hunter Melanoma Foundation said it feared a move to sun protection factor 50+ sunscreens would give the public a false sense of security.

Foundation executive officer Jenny Noblet said  that  factor 50+ sunscreen could lead people to mistakenly think they were ‘‘bullet proof’’ when the stronger sunscreens reduce burning from UVB rays, not necessarily sun damage from UVA rays.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced  yesterday that  it had approved a new standard that would allow sunscreen manufacturers to increase the sun protection factor in sunscreens from SPF30+ to SPF50+.

It also tightened up rules on ‘‘broad spectrum’’ screens, which protect against UVA.

The 50+ sunscreens are expected to appear on shop shelves in mid-January.

Ms Noblet said sunscreen protection varied greatly depending on whether a person was swimming, sweating or near reflective water. When and how they applied it and frequency of reapplication also influenced protection.

She said the best way to avoid melanoma was to stay out of the sun during peak periods and cover up.

The Hunter has the largest numbers of melanoma diagnosed in NSW outside Sydney. There have been 2172 diagnosed cases in the region in the past five years.

Cancer Council NSW Hunter manager Shayne Connell said the organisation welcomed the move.

But he said it was important to note a 30+ sunscreen provided 96.7per cent protection while a 50+ provided 98per cent, a difference of just 1.3 per cent.

‘‘It’s not a suit of armour,’’ he said. Ms Noblet agreed.

‘‘You’re getting a lot more chemicals for a couple of percentage difference,’’ she said.

At Nobbys beach yesterday Hunter locals and visitors  were surprised to learn that despite mild temperatures the UV rating, 11, was extreme.

Julie Opdahl, of Sweden, said she used 30+ when at the beach in Australia.

‘‘We don’t really use it in Sweden,’’ she said.

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