BASKING RIDGE — Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center report that New Jersey residents are unclear when it comes to understanding the subtle, but crucial difference between the UVA claim and the SPF value listed on a product. In the team’s analysis, published in the October edition of the British Journal of Dermatology, results also showed that while many understand the benefit of sunscreen, few are familiar with the proper application techniques.
The analysis was drawn from a 22-question survey distributed to New Jersey residents attending health seminars at their respective workplaces. Four hundred twenty-three people completed the survey, which included questions regarding demographics, knowledge about sunscreen, and sunscreen purchasing factors.
An overwhelming majority, 86 percent, knew that sunscreen could prevent sunburn. Seventy percent of respondents reported that sunscreen could prevent skin cancer, and 64 percent understood that sunscreens could help prevent premature signs of aging.
However, only 9 percent of those who participated were aware that UVB radiation — not UVA radiation — is the major wavelength that causes sunburn. When respondents were asked which factors influence their purchasing decisions, a large number noted that a product’s SPF and UVA listing were most important.
“It’s clear that consumers do not have a good understanding of what a product’s UVA/UVB coverage and SPF value mean with regard to the level of protection the product provides them,” said Steve Wang, MD, Director of Dermatologic Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Basking Ridge and the study’s lead author. “Without the proper knowledge — without understanding a product’s labeling and level of protection — effective change cannot take place.”
The analysis also showed that only 32 percent of respondents understood that sunscreen needs to be applied 30 minutes before going outdoors in order for it to be most effective. Furthermore, only 30 percent knew that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours.
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