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WHEN consumers stand in front of an array of bright bottles of sunscreen, a seal of approval from the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa) will, for many, be the decider.
What better than the wisdom of a dedicated, specialist organisation when the average shopper knows very little about the science of how, and how well, these fluids shield them from harmful rays? It is a quick, safe guide through the scores of lotions available in this country.
Or it should be – those who heed Cansa’s repeated warnings against UVA and UVB rays are entitled to expect safety in Cansa-endorsed products.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in this country. About 20 000 cases and 700 deaths are reported annually, according to 11-year-old statistics, which are probably worse by now.
Now we learn that Cansa’s seal of approval is on some products that do not meet new international sunscreen standards.
Cansa discovered this via laboratory tests. But the laboratory works for the sunscreen makers too, so no lists of good and sub-standard creams and oils have been published. The cancer body has signalled its discomfort at this, but is bound by contract.
Cansa, which must realise that its credibility is at stake here, is engaging the sunscreen makers individually and telling all that they have to be compliant with the new world standard within eight months. If they fail, they will not be entitled to carry the Cansa seal.
In prospect, then, is another summer without knowing whether the bottle with the Cansa seal in one’s bathroom cabinet protects as it boasts, or falls short.
Cansa must ensure its good work is not tainted by this. It must, as a priority, find a laboratory with no conflict of interest. This will enable it to advise people as it should, brand by brand, on sun safety.