Sun protection – skin cancer

Published: July 15, 2021

Sunscreen or Sunblock – Which to Choose?

By now most of us know that while a summertime glow may look healthy, ultraviolent (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. 

Sunscreens are not all alike

Consider your skin complexion and family history of skin cancers, then choose a broad-spectrum UVA sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. That number can go as high as 100; but generally, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays; SPF 50 blocks 98%. Slather or spray – whichever works for you – but look for water-resistant and reapply every two (2) hours. And remember: the shelf-life of your sunscreen is about a year.

Did you know that products don’t use the term “sunblock” anymore? There’s no sunscreen that offers complete protection. Look at the ingredients before you buy. Depending on the level of protection, sunscreens absorb and scatters sunshine before it can penetrate the skin. But those with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide (the thick white stuff), and oxybenzone can endure an onslaught of water or sweat and sits more on top of your skin to block the sun’s rays by reflecting them.

If still unsure what’s best for you and your family, get some guidance from your PCP or dermatologist. The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that sunscreen takes about 30 minutes to be absorbed into your skin, so apply before going outside.

Pack Sun Smart

For your children especially, any sunburn is no fun. Protect you and your family from sun damage by not only packing sunscreen but by keeping these items in your car so they are readily available where ever you go:

  • Sunglasses. UV radiation can be damaging to the eyes so it is important to wear quality sunglasses. Look for a UV protection of 400, which blocks over 90% of rays; or an EPF (eye protection factor) of 10 provides best protection.
  • T-Shirts. Always pack extra t-shirts in the car to throw on after swimming
  • Hats. Wear one with a wide brim that shades the face, neck, and ears
  • Umbrellas. Try to limit direct sun exposure, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are the strongest. An umbrella is best for the beach or seek other shade for a sun break, while at the ballpark, soccer field, or swimming pool.

Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, making it the most common form of cancer by far, according to the ACS. Your skin is the largest organ of the body and the most subjected to the harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, known to cause cancer, yet preventable with proper protection and sunscreen use. And, since any UV rays can be harmful, avoid sun lamps or tanning beds as they emit harmful levels of UVA and UVB rays. For more information, visit ACS.

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