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What if we told you a simple over-the-counter product can help you beat cancer? And what if we told you that the same product can reduce the effects of aging in your skin?
So, what is this miracle drug? It’s simple sunscreen.
Summer is here–warm weather and sunny days mean more outside time, which also can lead to sunburns. There’s nothing cool about painful sunburns, early wrinkles or a raised risk of skin cancer. And, yet, that’s just what too much UV exposure can bring.
Did you know that the number one way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen? Unfortunately, most Americans are guilty of not using it. The majority of adults say they know the dangers of overexposure to the sun, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 14 percent of men and 29 percent of women regularly use sunscreen on both their face and other exposed skin.
“Many people have a misconception that you only need sunscreen when spending long days at the pool or beach,” said Dr. Rebecca Tuttle, a surgical oncologist with Kettering Health Cancer Care. “However, it’s important to protect your skin all the time, whether you’re spending the day at a park or cookout, playing with the kids in the yard, or even just driving for a long time on a sunny day.”
Using sunscreen seems to be a simple thing, but even those who do apply it may not be using it correctly. Here’s what you should pay attention to:
1. What’s on the label? When shopping for sunscreen, make sure you choose one that:
- Offers broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which are the main culprit for sunburns, but UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and early aging. Make sure your sunscreen is protecting you against both.
- Has a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30. This dermatologist-recommended level of protection blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays.
- Is water-resistant. Sunscreen being water-resistant is important even if you don’t plan to get in a pool or ocean, because sunscreen can also wash off your skin when you sweat.
2. Apply sunscreen before you go outside, not while you’re outside. It takes about 15 minutes for its protection to kick in.
3. Use enough of the stuff. Many people make the mistake of using too little sunscreen. Experts recommend using at least 1 ounce—about the amount you can hold in the palm of your hand—to cover exposed skin. This includes the face, ears, arms, hands, nose, neck and feet. Use a lip balm with sunscreen in it to protect your lips.
4. Reapply at least every two hours. Put more on immediately after you swim or sweat excessively.
Don’t forget about putting sunscreen your kids, too–children who have a sunburn at an early age are nearly twice as likely to develop melanoma in adulthood. However, a recent study revealed that only 25 percent of children routinely wear sunscreen.
“Our job as parents is to protect our children,” said Rebecca Tuttle, MD a surgical oncologist at Kettering Health Cancer Care. “Applying sunscreen making sure they have on protective clothing before they go outside is one of the best ways to help protect our kids from skin cancer.”
Parents can set an example for their children by making sun protection a lifelong habit for themselves, as well.
To learn more about prevention and risks of melanoma and other skin cancers, visit ketteringhealth.org/cancercare/.