Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. One in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and one person dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding sunscreen:
What should I be looking for in my sunscreen?
Choose a sunscreen that offers a broad-spectrum protection because it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, has a SPF, or sunburn protection factor, of 30 or higher, and is water resistant. A sunscreen that has all of these factors protects the skin from sunburn, early skin aging, and skin cancer.
When should I use sunscreen?
Every day you are outside. The sun emits harmful UV rays all year, even on cloudy days. Snow, sand, and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays. Studies show that daily use of sunscreen can reduce your risk of: skin cancer, including melanoma, the most-serious skin cancer, precancerous skin growths that can turn into cancer, signs of premature skin aging like age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin, sunburn, melisma, dark spots on your skin that can appear when acne, psoriasis, or another condition clears.
How do you apply sunscreen? How often do you reapply?
First, choose a sunscreen that has all of the above factors. Be sure the sunscreen has not expired. Then, apply 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, to all exposed skin on the entire body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin. It takes around 15 minutes for the sunscreen to absorb into your skin and protect you. Reapply the sunscreen after 2 hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating. Water resistant sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes in the water and very water resistant stays effective for 80 minutes in the water. After the allotted time, you’ll need to reapply.
Besides sunscreen, what steps should I take to protect my skin from diseases such as skin cancer?
- Seek shade when appropriate.
- Wear protective clothing when possible.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the sun’s harmful rays.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet or vitamin supplements.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Check your skin often.
- See a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early.