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Avoid 'snake oil' sunscreen pills and stick to sun safety basics: dermatologist

Toronto, May 31, 2018

By Michael Oliveira

a hat and a bottle of sunscreen on the beach

Consumers should heed the warning of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and avoid any sun protection products peddled online with dubious claims, says dermatologist Dr. Erin Dahlke, who is launching a skin cancer clinic at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in August.

The FDA recently warned consumers about companies selling pills being marketed as “oral sunscreen,” which purportedly protect against UV rays, prevent skin cancer, or can repair sun damage. One of the companies that received a warning letter from the FDA is based in Toronto.

“The pills in the warning are really of the snake-oil variety making pretty outrageous claims. Anything that has that type of labelling on it, you should be cautious about,” said Dr. Dahlke.

“Stick with what we know is most effective: avoid sun during peak hours, use a wide brimmed hat, sun protective clothing and sunscreen.”

As a rule of thumb for sunscreen, Dr. Dahlke often recommends using a product that’s SPF 45 or 60 and reapplying every 90 minutes. Even if a sunscreen is labelled as water resistant, it’s safest to reapply after you’ve gone for a swim, she added.

And she’s always reminding patients that sunscreen isn’t just for the summer.

“Sunscreen should be a year-round thing, it should just be a part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth,” she said.

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St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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