Dermatologists will be the first to say that sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. With summer here in New Hampshire, it’s important to remember that daily use of sunscreen could decrease the incidence of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It is also important to use sunscreen in addition to seeking shade and wearing protective clothing. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are good sun protectant accessories too.
For the best protection, the AAD recommends looking for sunscreens with the following terms on the label:
- Broad-spectrum: This means that the sunscreen helps protect from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can cause skin cancer.
- SPF 30 or Higher: This rating indicates how well a sunscreen protects you from sunburn. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays (the burning rays). Higher-number SPF’s block slightly more, however no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.
- Water Resistant: Sunscreens can be water resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes. However, they are not waterproof or sweatproof and need to be reapplied every two hours when outdoors, or after swimming or sweating.
Considering that unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays is a major risk factor for skin cancer, it’s important to make an informed decision.
Additionally, there are two types of sunscreens available: chemical and physical. Both protect you from the sun but not in the same way.
Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. They contain one or more of the following active ingredients: Avobezone, ensulizole, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene or oxybenzone.
Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreen, act like a shield. They sit on the surface of the skin, primarily deflecting the sun’s rays. They include the active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, and are recommended for people with sensitive skin.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and nearly one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. To assist in the prevention of this most common skin cancer, follow rules above, perform self-checks of moles and lesions on your body routinely, and see a Board-Certified Dermatologist for annual exams, or whenever you see a change in any lesion.