With the hot weather and long summer days, you may be spending a lot of time catching the sun. But it is important to use sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen helps reduce the risk of skin cancer, but not all SPF products are created equal. Here’s what you need to know to get the best protection.
How does sunscreen reduce the risk of skin cancer?
The The skin is the largest organ of the body and it has several parts. The two main layers are called the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (inner layer). Skin cancer starts in the epidermis, which is made up of three types of cells: basal, squamous and melanocytes. The three main types of skin cancer – basal, squamous and melanoma – start in these cells respectively.
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types of skin cancer. It is often curable if detected and treated early. Skin cancer can also be cured if it is treated early – but skin cancer is the most dangerous because it can spread to other parts of the body.
Skin cancer can be caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, tanning beds or tanning beds. There is three types of UV light:
- UVA light is less powerful, but it can cause skin cells to age or damage the skin’s DNA. It can cause skin cancer.
- UVB rays are stronger than UVA and can damage the DNA in skin cells. It is thought to cause many skin cancers.
- UVC light is very powerful, but it interacts with ozone in the upper atmosphere and does not reach the ground. However, they can be found in man-made products such as UV sanitizing bulbs. UVC light is generally not a risk factor for skin cancer.
Sunscreen protects against harmful UV rays. Sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, while physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and deflect the rays. Sunscreens are available as lotions, creams, gels, sprays, wax sticks or oils.
What do SPFs mean?
You are probably familiar with the term “SPF” – or sun protection factor – found on sunscreen labels. The number that accompanies it is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn. American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends an SPF of 30 or higher when going outside, even if it’s cloudy outside. About 80 percent of sunlight can pass through clouds.
A high SPF number is good to some extent, but no sunscreen will block 100% of the sun’s rays. Here’s how the numbers work:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
- SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays
No matter which SPF you choose, you should use the right amount to cover your body. The AAD recommends using 1 ounce to cover all exposed skin. This includes your feet, hands, neck, top of your head and ears. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours. You will also need to reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating. Remember that waterproofing does not mean waterproofing. If the sunscreen label says it’s waterproof, it should also say how long it lasts after swimming or sweating; usually 40 or 80 minutes.
You’ll also want to consider the time of day when choosing sunscreen. UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 2 pm If you can’t stay indoors during that time, choose a high SPF sunscreen.
Do different skin types and skin types need sunscreen?
Contrary to popular belief, people who have dark skin also needs to wear sunscreen protect against skin cancer. Although melanin – the pigment that gives skin its color – helps block some of the sun’s rays, it does not provide adequate protection. SPF 30 is the minimum recommendation for all skin types.
You should too consider your skin color when choosing a sunscreen. If you have dry skin, look for sunscreens that contain hyaluronic acid and moisturizing agents. Choose an oil-free sunscreen if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
Do you need sunscreen indoors?
It may seem counterintuitive because staying indoors is one way to protect yourself from the sun, but you should wear sunscreen indoors. Sunlight passes through windows and hits your skin, so staying indoors does not provide adequate protection unless you are in a room with no windows or curtains drawn.
How do you diagnose skin cancer?
Although sunscreens reduce the risk of skin cancer, they do not prevent it. From the age of 20, you must do a full body test and discuss whether regular skin exams from your doctor may be appropriate based on your risk. Getting to know your skin by doing a monthly self-examination can help you spot any changes that may indicate cancer. Look for any unusual spots or spots that are growing or bleeding. AAD shows the focus The ABCDEs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half of the space is different from the other.
- Bstructure: The boundaries of the area are irregular or unclear.
- Color: This place has different colors.
- Dmeter: This area has a diameter about the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm), although some may be smaller.
- Evolving: An area looks different from others or changes in size, shape or color.
The most common symptoms of skin cancer can also be smooth, waxy or hard, red. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your general practitioner or dermatologist. HCA Healthcare patient George Lowry did just that when he discovered four large tumors under the skin of his torso in January 2022. The 73-year-old man was diagnosed with melanoma.
George received care at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado – part of our larger HCA Healthcare network. His treatment plan included surgery and immunotherapy to remove the cancer and reduce the chance of recurrence. Today, George is on the mend and realizes the importance of being careful with skin problems.
“My message to anyone with skin, to protect it. This includes using sunscreen, wearing a hat, reducing exposure to the sun, etc.,” said George. “My first melanoma was in 2006, I believe. After the next couple came and had surgery, I increased the annual visits to three months.”
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your risk of skin cancer. Remember to try sunscreen in the summer and all year round!