Category Archives: news


I commented on the myth of base tans for Scientific American. See the article here:

Salon / Scientific American.

Over the years I have been impressed by how many college students insist on “getting a tan before they get a tan” at spring break. This American rite of passage invariably results in an untold number of sunburns–red, painful noses, shoulders, feet–virtually anywhere the sun can get reflected by sand and water. The MYTH has been that a base tan will help protect your skin for the “REAL THING”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Any sun exposure intended to tan will harm your skin damaging the DNA inside the skin cells. Tanning is a natural mechanism to prevent damage to the DNA but it is not a strategy to protect against intentional injury. A so-called base tan provides a sun protection factor so low it is practically equivalent to having no meaningful protection at all. See my comments in this article from the

Dr. Susan Mayne

For many years, dermatologists have noted an increasing number of young women presenting with the most common form of skin cancer called basal cell cancer. Now, a study we conducted at Yale, led by colleagues Dr. Susan Mayne and Dr. Leah Ferrucci, sheds new light on this unexpected and unfortunate trend. The good news is that those who use tanning parlors now have good reason to stop doing so. For more information about this extensive study click here or click here. Not surprisingly representatives of the tanning parlor industry will make spurious claims about the safety of tanning parlor use. The scientific evidence suggests otherwise. The publication of this study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology is very timely. Recently, California banned tanning parlor use in minors. In Connecticut there is a revived effort ( for the fourth time) to pass legislation requiring parental consent to allow minors to use tanning parlors. It is noteworthy that both cigarettes and ultraviolet radiation such as that emitted in tanning parlors, are carcinogenic. One wonders why the same regulations do not apply to tanning parlors as apply to access to cigarettes.

Dr. Leah Ferrucci


It was a busy few days after the FDA announced its new sunscreen labeling guidelines. On balance, the public will benefit but complete clarity remains elusive. Bottom line: use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 that also provides broad spectrum (ingredients to look for: avobenzone or zinc oxide) apply every couple of hours while active outdoors (claims of sweat-proof and waterproof will no longer be accepted by the FDA); and make sure that you avoid the sun during peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm. Don’tforget hats and other sun protective clothing as you’ll read in the NPR interview.

 Here’s a brief extract of my comments from All Things Considered with Nancy Shute:

The FDA says there’s no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen. They all wash off in the pool, or with sweat. Starting next summer, the best a label will be able to claim is that a sunscreen is water resistant.

Leffell adds:

“A white T-shirt gives you a sun protection factor of 6, which frankly is not very helpful at all,” he says. “But there are so many products out there: sun-protective clothing products that are rated for their sun protection and don’t look like prison uniforms anymore. They actually look like real clothing.”

And protective clothing that looks like real clothes is a good thing, because skin cancer rates in young people are on the rise. Leffell is seeing cases of young women in their 20s developing skin cancer, “which used to be unheard of,” he says.

Listen to the segment itself

Also, other points are made in the Hartford Courant

My Quick Take on the New Regs

As I mentioned yesterday, the FDA guidelines for sunscreen labeling have been published. The final guidelines clearly reflect the input that has been received through the public comment period. Here are the key points in the new rules in the FDA’s own words with my comments in italics:

  • Broad Spectrum designation.Sunscreens that pass FDA’s broad spectrum test procedure, which measures a product’s UVA protection relative to its UVB protection, may be labeled as “Broad Spectrum SPF [value]” on the front label. For Broad Spectrum sunscreens, SPF values also indicate the amount or magnitude of overall protection. Broad Spectrum SPF products with SPF values higher than 15 provide greater protection and may claim additional uses, as described in the next bullet. This is a reasonable guideline that seeks to provide the consumer with some clarity around the issue of “broad spectrum” coverage. I typically recommend sunscreen with SPF minimum of 15 to 30 so this guideline is reinforcing.
  • Use claims. Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn. Sunscreen less than SPF 15 is unhelpful in terms of skin cancer protection so I am glad this has been defined for the public. Also, critical to note that “other sun protection measures” must be followed to optimize skin cancer risk reduction.
  • “Waterproof, “sweatproof” or “sunblock” claims.Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or identify their products as “sunblocks,” because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than 2 hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application (for example– “instant protection”) without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA approval. This rule is consistent with what I have been telling patients all along: regardless of what the label says, reapply every couple of hours while outdoors. Its a hassle, but very doable when you consider the alternative.
  • Water resistance claims. Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing consumers to use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating. Reasonable.
  • Drug Facts. All sunscreens must include standard “Drug Facts” information on the back and/or side of the container. Probably the most helpful addition: we all read those boxes with detailed information. While sunscreens are over-the-counter products, they are obviously regulated. They have significant beneficial effects and this new requirement will help consumers better understand what ingredients do. The more useful information, the better!

After years of discussion the FDA will announce new sunscreen labeling guidelines today. The general public, dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have been eagerly awaiting the final “monograph” which is intended to clarify sunscreen labeling and make the information for consumers more practical and understandable. The FDA announcement should quell some of the inaccurate claims about sunscreen safety and usefulness while at the same time providing guidelines for ultraviolet A protection standards in sunscreens which so far have applied to ultraviolet B radiation (SPF rating system).

CA Gov. Jerry Brown has Mohs Surgery

Today the Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Jerry Brown, underwent surgery for a skin cancer of the nose.   Basal cell cancer, the lesion that was removed from his nose using a technique called Mohs surgery, is the most common form of skin cancer in humans. Continue Reading »

Total Skin by Dr. David J. LeffellFrom Associated Press:

“Total Skin, a new book by Leffell, a professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, hopes to provide comprehensive information about the sun’s effect on skin and to debunk some myths about skin health. Continue Reading »