American Academy of Dermatology Addresses Sun Exposure and Protection

November 17, 2009

At a recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology's SKIN Academy, new recommendations for minimum sun protection, as well as how dermatologists can help dispel myths about sun exposure, sunscreen, and vitamin D were reviewed.

At a recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) SKIN Academy in Washington, DC, the AAD addressed their new recommendations for minimum sun protection, as well as how dermatologists can help dispel myths about sun exposure, sunscreen, and vitamin D.

The first myth addressed by dermatologist Elizabeth L. Tanzi, MD, FAAD, clinical faculty in the department of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Hospital Center in Baltimore, was the concept that sun exposure is the best source for vitamin D. Although sun exposure is one way to absorb vitamin D, the AAD explains that is not the best way because the benefits “cannot be separated from an increased risk of skin cancer.” Rather than obtaining vitamin D through sun exposure alone, the AAD recommends that “an adequate amount of vitamin D should be obtained from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D (e.g., dairy products and fish), foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D (e.g., fortified milk and fortified cereals), and/or vitamin D supplements.”

Tanzi also discussed the myths associated with sunscreen. She explained what the differences are in sun protection factor (SPF), and how sunscreen protects against UVA or UVB rays. The latter factor, according to Tanzi, can be confusing because only certain sunscreen will protect against both; zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two ingredients that provide protection.

The AAD recently amended their recommended level of SPF to at least 30 for “proper sun protection.” The set of guidelines released by the AAD addresses sun protection, healthy ways to obtain vitamin D, and how to perform self-checks for early signs of skin cancer. To see a full list of the guidelines, please refer to the AAD press release.

“Despite years of ongoing public education efforts on the dangers of UV radiation, a number of misconceptions remain as to how to best protect ourselves from this known carcinogen and whether or not we absolutely need sun exposure for vitamin D production,” said Tanzi. “The fact is these myths are harmful because sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and the consequences of this misinformation could be potentially fatal.”