When It Comes to Skin Cancer Prevention, Beware of SPF Claims

Woman applying sunscreen

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. An estimated 2.5 million cases will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Of those cases, nearly 100,000 individuals will develop invasive melanoma, the most serious and potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid getting a sunburn or even a tan. And while sunscreen is key to protecting your skin, not all sunscreens are what they claim to be. These 6 tips can help you prevent skin cancer or find it early:

Use Sunscreen Daily

Before you go outside:

  • Liberally apply sunscreen to all skin that will be exposed (face, ears, hands, neck).
  • Reapply the sunscreen every two hours when you’ in direct sunlight.
  • Apply a sunscreen containing lip balm to your lips.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. I recommend an SPF of at least 30.

Remember that the sun’s rays pass through the windows of a car—another reason to apply sunscreen daily. Consumer Reports consistently finds that almost half of tested sunscreens with ratings of 30 SPF or higher, fell short of their stated level of sun protection. Take a look at the findings and choose wisely.

Never Use a Tanning Bed or Sun Lamp

These devices cause skin cancer and are dangerous. Research shows using a tanning bed, especially before the age of 35, increases your risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent.

Wear Protective Clothing

A white T-shirt is an example of clothing that doesn’t protect against the sun’s harmful rays. Any clothing you can hold up to bright light and see through doesn’t offer the protection you need. Many companies supply comfortable, lightweight, and stylish sun-protective clothing. And remember to always wear a broad-brimmed hat outdoors.

Wear Sunglasses with UV Protection

Melanoma can develop in the eyes, so it’s essential to shield them from the sun’s rays. Be sure to wear sunglasses that offer UV protection every day.

Avoid the Outdoors at Peak Times

The sun is strongest during the late morning and afternoon hours. For maximum safety, avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. And remember, the sun’s rays are damaging even on cooler and cloudier days.

See a Doctor for a Screening

Ask your primary care doctor if you should see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. If your doctor recommends one, be sure to ask the dermatologist how often you should be checked. Some people need to be screened more often than others. During the screening, the doctor will carefully look at your skin, including your scalp, for any unusual marks or moles.

author name

Shanthi Sivendran, MD

Shanthi Sivendran, MD, is a physician with Lancaster General Health Physicians Hematology & Medical Oncology. Dr. Sivendran’s areas of expertise include melanoma, urinary system cancers (kidney, prostate, bladder and testicles) and breast cancer.

Education: Medical School–University College, Dublin; Residency–Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Fellowship–Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Call: 717-544-9400

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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