Sunscreen Warnings

Walk into almost any drug store and you'll find a range of sunscreens that claim to be waterproof, sweatproof or offer all-day protection, but in reality those labels are meaningless.

"It's ridiculous. You can say anything you want on a sunscreen label because the claims are not regulated by the government," Dr. Darrell Rigel of the American Academy of Dermatology told ABC News' John McKenzie.

And because of that millions of unsuspecting sunscreen users this summer may literally get burned.

"Most consumers have little idea of how much, or more importantly, how little sun protection many of these products offer," added Dr. James Spencer of Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Many doctors are outraged that Congress has completed legislation for these products.They've held hearings on the need for better sunscreen labels and the FDA has been promising tougher sunscreen standards for the last 29 years and nothing has been done.

Just this week the FDA said it is working on new regulations to address UVA testing and SPF labeling issues.

Agency officials declined our request for an interview but in a statement said: "The FDA believes sunscreens are safe and effective when used as directed."

Letting Too Much Sunshine in?

Sunscreens are not nearly as effective as they could be -- they come with an SPF rating to gauge the sun protection factor but that only indicates protection against the sunburn causing UVB rays. There's no rating for the deeper penetrating UVA rays.

"UVA rays are every bit as harmful as UVB rays," Rigel explained. "UVA can also cause skin cancer, as well as wrinkles and the aging of the skin."

So without better sunscreen standards in the United States, which most European countries have had for years, how can you be assured you're getting the kind of sun protection you need?

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests the following tips:

Use a sunscreen with a high SPF rating, the higher the better.

Apply sunscreen every two hours even on a cloudy day. Also reapply after taking a swim, and use extra caution at the beach or near a pool as water and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun.

For long-lasting UVA protection look for products tested and endorsed by the American Cancer Society or the Academy of Dermatology.

"Finding a good, effective sunscreen shouldn't be that hard. But it is. For many people, it's just totally confusing," Spencer added.

With a million Americans developing skin cancer each year doctors say people should not be wondering whether their sunscreen is leaving them vulnerable.

For a comprehensive listing of Medicine on the Cutting Edge reports with John McKenzie, click here.

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