New sunscreen, Anthelios, offers better cancer protection

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New sunscreen, Anthelios, offers better cancer protection

A sunscreen that offers better protection from the sun's harmful rays gains FDA approval.

What happened? Beach goers and others enjoying fun in the sun will soon have a new option for blocking the sun's harmful rays.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Anthelios SX, an over-the-counter sunscreen that offers protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.

Most sunscreens sold in the United States mainly block UVB rays, which helps prevent sunburn and other types of skin damage. But Anthelios offers better protection from deeper penetrating UVA rays, according to the manufacturer. This may help reduce the risk of various types of skin cancer — including melanoma and basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Better UVA protection also may reduce sun-related skin wrinkling.

Anthelios contains ecamsule, an ingredient that's been marketed as Mexoryl SX in Europe and Canada since 1993. The sunscreen is made by the cosmetics company L'Oreal. It's expected to be available as a daily moisturizing cream in select pharmacies, drugstores and doctor's offices throughout the United States in the fall. Other L'Oreal products containing the new ingredient may follow.

What does this mean to you? Anthelios offers various advantages to traditional sunscreens. But the added protection may come at a cost. Although U.S. prices aren't yet available, similar products sold in Canada cost about twice as much as traditional sunscreens — or even more.

"The expense for this sunscreen needs to be balanced with the need for broader UVA protection," says Lawrence Gibson, M.D., a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. There isn't necessarily a single correct answer for everyone. "To determine whether this sunscreen is the best choice for you, weigh all the factors with your dermatologist," Dr. Gibson says.

And there's more to skin protection than sunscreen. In addition to using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, it's important to limit your time in the sun — especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's harmful rays are strongest. When you're outdoors, wear a broad-rimmed hat and tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs. Avoid tanning beds and tan-accelerating products.

"No sunscreen is a substitute for avoiding the most intense sun of the day and wearing appropriate clothing," Dr. Gibson says.

Also examine your skin regularly. Report to your doctor any new skin growths or changes in existing moles or freckles.

Last Updated: 07/26/2006
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