Posted by Chelsea Harris & filed under .

How do I prevent skin cancer?

Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.1,2 You can have fun in the sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer. Here’s how you can prevent skin cancer:
  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreenwith a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2011. 2 Robinson, JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294: 1541-43.

Is Sunscreen Safe?

Yes, sunscreen is safe to use. No published studies show that sunscreen is toxic to humans or hazardous to human health. Scientific studies actually support using sunscreen. Research shows that wearing sunscreen can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer. Sunscreen also can reduce premature skin aging. What about the reported health risks associated with some ingredients found in sunscreens? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreens. Before an ingredient can be used in sunscreen, the ingredient must be approved by the FDA for this use. Here is the real science behind some of the ingredients now in the news. Oxybenzone: This is one of the few ingredients in sunscreen that effectively protects our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Here are the facts about oxybenzone:
  • Approved by the FDA in 1978.
  • No data show that oxybenzone causes hormonal problems or related conditions in humans, such as endometriosis.
  • No data show that oxybenzone causes any significant health problems in humans.
  • FDA approved for use by people 6 months of age and older.
Retinyl palmitate: This ingredient helps protect our skin from premature aging. Here are the facts:
  • No study shows that it increases the risk of skin cancer in humans.
  • Retinyl palmitate is blended into sunscreens and numerous cosmetics to help reverse signs of skin aging.

Is nanotechnology safe?

Before nanotechnology could be used in sunscreens, considerable research was conducted. Research suggests that when the sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are turned in to nanoparticles (tiny particles made by fine grinding) the sunscreen is safe. It appears that when people apply sunscreen that contains these nanoparticles to healthy, uninjured skin, the nanoparticles cannot get inside the body. Our outermost layer of skin seems to prevent these nanoparticles from entering in to the deeper layers of the skin. But why bother turning titanium dioxide and zinc oxide into nanoparticles? There are two reasons. First, the ingredients offer better protection from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Secondly, these ingredients do not leave a white residue on the skin when they are nanoparticles. To protect your skin, dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen that offers:
  • SPF 30 or greater.
  • Broad-spectrum protection (may say “UVA/UVB protection”).
  • Water resistance.
Studies prove that using sunscreen reduces the risk of developing skin cancer. Other things you can do to reduce your risk are to seek shade and wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun.

How to read sunscreen labels

When selecting sunscreen, make sure the label says:
  • Broad spectrum
  • SPF 30
  • Water resistant
The slideshow above explains why you want to look for these words. It also tells you what words you will no longer find on sunscreen labels. Taking a few minutes to view this slideshow will help you find sunscreen that can decrease your risk of getting skin cancer and premature skin aging.