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Oral Sunscreen may not be Magic Pill for Sun Worshipers

Loyola doctor warns supplement should only be used with traditional sunscreens

MAYWOOD, Ill. – While it might be nice to pop a pill to protect your skin from the sun, a Loyola University Health System dermatologist warns that oral sunscreens are not as effective as traditional lotions and creams.

“Oral sunscreens can be beneficial when they are used as an extra protective measure against damaging UV rays, but they should not be used in place of topical sunscreens,” said Rebecca Tung, MD, director, Division of Dermatology. “These products don’t necessarily prevent premature aging and skin cancer."

Oral sunscreens contain extracts of the cabbage plant. Dr. Tung reports that these products have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can clear up free radicals, which cause cellular damage in the body. Yet they are not 100 percent effective because they work based on the body’s ability to absorb them, which can vary from person to person.

“While oral sunscreens are appealing because they don’t leave a sticky white residue or need to be applied frequently, traditional lotions, creams and protective clothing remain the most effective way to block the sun,” Dr. Tung said.

More than 2 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually, making it the most common cancer in the U.S. The incidence of skin cancer, including the deadliest form – melanoma - has increased significantly over the last several decades.

Dr. Tung offers the following tips to prevent skin cancer:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with an SPF of at least 30. Apply it liberally.
  • Wear protective clothing outdoors, including a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, pants and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Stay out of the midday sun (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  • Use a higher SPF when at higher elevations.
  • Avoid sunbathing and tanning salons. UV rays from artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sunlamps, are just as dangerous as those from the sun.
    Set a good example for your children by always using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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