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Is high SPF misleading?26 September 2017High SPF values of over 50 are a marketing gimmick, according to David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Andrews is quoted in this year’s EWG Guide to Sunscreens as saying: “SPF values over 50 mislead people into thinking they are completely protected from sunburn and long-term skin damage. But instead, they may encourage people to spend more time in the sun, exposing themselves to more, not less, ultraviolet rays.”Because of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) caps on active ingredients, SPF 30 and SPF 100 products generally contain the exact same concentration of avobenzone, the primary ingredient used to reduce UVA exposure. Additionally, inflated SPF claims hide the fact that all sunscreens break down or wear off.The EWG maintains that capping SPF claims is one way the FDA could improve consumer protection and transparency in sunscreen marketing. In 2011 the agency proposed to cap SPF values at 50+, calling higher numbers misleading. But, according to the EWG, sunscreen companies continue to market higher SPF products, flooding store shelves with products that don’t provide the protection consumers think they’re getting.Curt Della Vale, an epidemiologist who directs EWG’s cancer programme, explained that melanoma rates are climbing, increasing almost 2% a year since 2000. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to sun damage.“A few blistering sunburns early in life can influence babies and children’s risk of developing melanoma later,” said Della Vale.Sunscreen is only one tool to prevent sunburn. Nneka Leiba, EWG’s director of healthy living science, said people should also protect their skin by wearing shirts, hats and pants, and staying in the shade.