Listen: Sunscreen safety and efficacy
Sunscreens have become a staple tool in our fight against skin cancer. In spite of the great progress made in educating the public about the value of sunscreens, there remain many doubters about the safety and efficacy of these chemicals. Darrell Rigel, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, will help to set the record straight on these agents.
Dr. Norman Levine: First, I’d like to boil it down to one most important question: On balance, are sunscreens good or not good for patients?
Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: On balance, I think the data is very clear, sunscreens are good for patients. It takes a while to get that answer, because you need to have studies with follow-up to show it, but it is very clear that for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, regular use of sunscreens lowers a person’s risk for developing the disease.
Dr. Norman Levine: Are sunscreens good for patients no matter what age one starts using them?
Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: The earlier you start protecting yourself, the better; whether we’re talking about sunscreens, protective clothing, or avoiding the midday sun. I describe skin’s sun exposure as being like a meter in a taxicab, because I am from New York City. The cab’s meter only goes forward; similarly the effects of the sun on your skin may occur faster or slower depending on the amount of the sun exposure you have. But the reality is that if you protect yourself, you are slowing down the aging process and your risk of skin cancer later in life.