Canadians might be exposing themselves to a skin cancer risk due to labelling regulations that have not kept up with the latest health research.
Health Canada requires companies to detail the amount of UVB, or ultraviolet "B," protection in their sunscreen with the SPF rating. UVB radiation can give you sunburn and it could ultimately lead to skin cancer.
But that radiation is not as dangerous as UVA rays, which are a more likely cause of skin cancer, according to recent research.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration implemented new stricter sunscreen regulations in 2012, which ensure companies detail UVA protection on bottles of sunscreen.
The regulations in Canada have not changed, though, and the average person has no idea, according to one Ottawa dermatologist.
"If we're just blocking the UVB and having people think they're protected in going out and getting a lot of radiation, including UVA, then we're not doing them a favour at all," said Dr. Jim Walker from The Ottawa Hospital.
"You really have to block both."
Zinc, titanium offer UVA protection
Some ingredients that do offer protection from UVA rays include zinc, titanium and a chemical called Avobenzone (also called Parsol 1789). Walker said to look for "broad-spectrum" protection, which means UVA and UVB are covered.
In a written statement to CBC News, Health Canada said "its intent is to align sunscreen requirements in Canada with U.S. FDA requirements." There is no timetable for those changes, though.
A draft of new sunscreen regulations was open to public consultation until February. Those proposed regulations detailed some sort of UVA protection.
Walker said Health Canada needs to hold the sunscreen industry to a higher standard as quickly as possible.
"I think if we had stricter regulations, the average individual could make a more informed decision and industry would then be forced to make a better product," he said.
Walker added that staying out of the sun is the best protection.