New sunscreen labels could make you safer

Local doctors say the labels may cut your risk of cancer

ORLANDO, Fla. – SPF, UVA, UBV... Buying sunscreen can sometimes feel like you're talking in code.

With bottles and bottles to choose from, it can be tough to find the best one for you.

But even now in November, doctors say you need to protect yourself. That's why they think new changes to sunscreen labels will make a big difference in cutting your risk of skin cancer.

"I was angry. I was angry, and I said, I'm not leaving my kids," says Laura Cruz, a mother from Central Florida who's been battling melanoma -- the most serious kind of skin cancer -- for the last eight years.

Since 2004, her disease has come back three times.

"I've had 17 rounds of chemo, about 13 of radiation," Cruz says. "You always look at every little spot and wonder, oh my gosh, is that gonna be something?"

At one point, in 2007, Cruz was only given four months to live. But today, she's full of energy, getting a variety of treatments, and staying strong for her family.

"I try not to focus too much on how much pain, because it tends to make you down, and I don't want to be down," Cruz says.

She understands the power of the sun. That's why she's impressed with the new sunscreen labels, which went into effect this month.

The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, will stay the same on the bottle -- like 15, 30, or 50.

But now, the labels will be more specific about how much protection you're getting from UVA, and the more powerful UVB rays. Not all sunscreens protect you from both. But if a product does, it'll now say so with the term, 'Broad Spectrum.'

Doctors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando say 'Broad Spectrum' should be one of the first things you look for when buying sunscreen.

"With SPF, you're protected from UVB exposure," says Dr. Sajeve Thomas, an oncologist at the Cancer Center. "When it says Broad Spectrum, you're getting coverage for both. So personally, I would find a product that says SPF of 15 to 30 with Broad Spectrum coverage."

Another big change -- if a sunscreen is water-resistant, the labels will now tell you how often you have to reapply if you're swimming or sweating. For example, every 40, 60, or 80 minutes, depending on the product.

"Now that you have these times, it kind of gives some guidance to folks, especially mothers and fathers who have kids who are playing in the water a lot," says Dr. Thomas.

We showed the new labels to Laura Cruz, and she says that she wishes she had this kind of information decades ago.

"If the labels were around 25 years ago, like that, I would've never came up with the cancer," Cruz says.

A lot of people think a higher SPF means more protection.

But Dr. Thomas at the Cancer Center says there is no proof that anything higher than SPF 30 will keep you safer.