Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it’s also one of the most preventable. Wearing sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to prevent skin cancer. Not only does sunscreen protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but it also helps to prevent premature aging and skin damage. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how wearing sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer.
UV Radiation and Skin Cancer
The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. UV radiation can be divided into two types: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can penetrate deep into the skin and cause premature aging, while UVB rays can cause sunburn and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
When you’re exposed to the sun’s UV rays, your skin produces melanin, a pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanin is your body’s natural defense against UV radiation, but it’s not always enough to protect you from skin damage and skin cancer. That’s where sunscreen comes in.
How Sunscreen Works
Sunscreens work by absorbing or reflecting UV radiation before it can penetrate the skin. There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical.
Physical sunscreens contain mineral ingredients, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, that sit on top of the skin and reflect UV radiation away from the body. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain ingredients that absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat.
Regardless of which type of sunscreen you choose, it’s important to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. We carry a wide variety of great options to choose from in both chemical and physical forms from brands like Revision Skincare, Coola, and ISDIN that meet our recommendations for UV protection.
How To Use Sunscreen Properly
Using sunscreen properly is just as important as choosing the right product. Here are some tips to ensure you’re using it effectively:
- Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed areas of skin, including the face, neck, ears, and hands 15 – 30 minutes before going outside.
- Use enough sunscreen: Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. A good rule of thumb is to use about one ounce (a shot glass full) of sunscreen for your entire body.
- Reapply frequently: Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Don’t skimp on cloudy days: Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate your skin. So, be sure to apply sunscreen every day.
Remember, sunscreen is just one part of sun protection. You should also seek shade and wear protective clothing, like wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses with polarized lens and long sleeves and pants when possible. We know it can be hard to cover up when it gets hot out! That’s why loose, breathable fabrics like linen, or technical sportswear can be a great option.
Another important step is to avoid spending time in the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). This is typically when the UV rays are strongest. Taking a break from the sun and going indoors is a great option. However, if you are at a beach or sporting event where this is not possible, bring umbrellas or outdoor coverings to set up to provide shade.
Skin cancer is highly preventable when precautions are taken to protect against harmful UV rays. However, in the event that you suspect a skin cancer or have been diagnosed with one, most forms of skin cancer are highly treatable when detected early.
The information in this blog is meant for educational purposes and is not a medical recommendation from our staff. All skin concerns should be evaluated by your dermatologist. Savannah River Dermatology is located at 575 Furys Ferry Rd in Augusta, Ga. For appointments and other questions our office can be reached at 706-691-7079.