by American Cancer Society
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? Most skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The negative effects of UV rays build up over a person’s lifetime, including exposure while driving or sitting by a window in school. Even on overcast or cloudy days when the sun doesn’t appear to be out, UV rays are present.
Luckily, most forms of skin cancer can be prevented. While we can’t completely avoid exposure to the sun, we can take precautionary measures to avoid excess UV ray exposure and lower our risk for developing skin cancer.
Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
Wear protective clothing, like wide-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and long sleeved shirts or pants (when you can).
Avoid direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are most intense.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
Use an umbrella or parasol while relaxing outdoors.
Use tanning beds or sun lamps.
Ignore sunscreen on cloudy days outdoors.
Forget sun safety year-round. UV rays aren’t only dangerous during the summertime.
For more information about playing safe in the sun, please visit cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.
Sunscreen is a product that you apply to your skin for protection against the sun’s UV rays. Sunscreens are available in many forms – lotions, creams, ointments, sprays, gels, wipes, and lip balms, to name a few.
When choosing a sunscreen product to protect your skin, consider the following:
Read the labels. Many groups, including the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The SPF number represents the level of protection against UVB rays provided by the sunscreen – a higher number means more protection.
An SPF 30 sunscreen, applied evenly and thickly, provides the equivalent of one minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending 2 minutes totally unprotected. People often do not apply a thick enough layer of sunscreen, so the actual protection they get is less.
Check the expiration date. Most sunscreen products are effective for at least 2 to 3 years, but after a long time in storage you may need to shake the bottle to remix the sunscreen ingredients.
Be sure to apply the sunscreen properly. Always follow the label directions. Most recommend applying sunscreen generously. When putting it on, pay close attention to your face, ears, hands, arms, and any other areas not covered by clothing. If you’re going to wear insect repellent or makeup, put on the sunscreen first.
Be generous. Ideally, about one ounce of sunscreen (about a palmful) should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face of the average adult. For best results, most sunscreens must be reapplied at least every two hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating.
Be aware of what “waterproof” means. Waterproof sunscreens may provide protection for at least 80 minutes when you are swimming or sweating. Products that are “water resistant” may protect for only 40 minutes. Remember that sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so you will need to put more on.
Remember UVAs. The SPF number indicates protection against UVB rays only. Sunscreen products labeled “broad-spectrum” provide some protection against both UVA and UVB rays, but at this time there is no standard system for measuring protection from UVA rays. Products that contain avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide can provide some protection from UVB and most UVA rays.