Sunscreen: Don’t Leave Home Without It - Ascension Wisconsin

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Published on June 01, 2015

Sunscreen: Don’t Leave Home Without It

Getting through this summer should involve sunscreen - and lots of it. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and when used as recommended, sunscreen has been shown to reduce risk for all types of skin cancer and prevent or delay signs of aging. Yet the majority of Americans are not using it.

“I encourage all my patients to wear sunscreen. I tell them it's best to apply it 20 to 30 minutes before going outside so their skin has time to absorb it. Everyone should reapply sunscreen often, at least every two hours, and especially after exercising or swimming. Remember that even on cloudy days, you are exposed to UV rays,” instructs Ani Saryan, MD, a family medicine physician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. She adds,” Sunscreens are not recommended for infants less than six months of age. Infants in this age group should be kept out of the sun.”

What You Need to Know About Sunscreen

  • Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Make sure the label on your sunscreen states that it has UVA and UVB, broad spectrum, or multi-spectrum protection.
  • Look for water resistant sunscreen which lasts longer than typical sunscreens.
  • Reapply regularly. A few dabs in the morning will not last the whole day. Follow the directions on the bottle for reapplying.

The FDA is studying the safety of spray sunscreens. For now, it's important to know you’ll need several coats rubbed in well to ensure complete coverage and don't spray sunscreen on your face, instead, spray it in your hands and then apply it to your face.

Dr. Saryan says sunscreen is important but it’s only one part of an overall strategy of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays.

Other Important Strategies to Protect Your Skin

  • Seek shade when appropriate. Limit your sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV rays are the strongest.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim and tightly woven clothing that covers most of your skin, as well as sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.

What We Know About Skin Cancer

  • Skin cancer rates are on the rise despite decades of lectures about sunscreen.
  • More than one million cases are diagnosed each year.
  • Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for the disease each year.
  • The greatest risk for developing all types of skin cancers comes from sunburns.
  • People with fair skin and those who tend to burn easily are more at risk.
  • The longer a person's skin is exposed to the sun over time, the higher the risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Skin cancer can be deadly, but nearly all skin cancer can be treated if it is detected and diagnosed early.

Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth, even if it has no color, are possible signs and symptoms of skin cancer and should be checked by a physician.

More Information

For more information about sunscreen and skin cancer, check out these articles in our Health Library:

Sunscreen: Don’t Leave Home Without It