Protecting your skin from the harmful sun’s rays can stop you from becoming one of the many people who develop skin cancer.

When a I recently visited the doctor’s about a painful, small pimple that had recently appeared on my shoulder I was shocked to discover it was actually a squamous cell carcinoma – yikes I had skin cancer. So, I had to visit a dermatologist who removed the offending cells. Hopefully, that has resolved that issue but it has got me thinking about taking better care of my skin going forward.

It is quite scary how prevelant skin cancer is. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the US than all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

How can we prevent skins cancer. Luckily, it is one of those diseases you can takes measures to protect yourself against.

The American Cancer Society gives some guidances on staying sun-safe:

  • Cover up: Wear clothing when outside, ideally with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF), a wide-brimmed hat and sun glasses
  • Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 – reapply every two hours
  • Seek shade and limit your direct exposure to the sun especially between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.

All common sense, and I would be surprised if many people have not heard this advice before. Unfortunately, whilst many people are aware of this advice they still don’t follow it! It you want more information on skin cancer and how to protect yourself and your family against it the Skin Cancer Foundation provides a great resource for information on this topic.

As I sit here planning for my vacation I am thinking about sunscreens. What type and brand of sunscreen should I use.

Firstly, there is a recommendation to use “broad-spectrum” protection sunscreens, which are designed to protect against Ultraviolet B (UVB ) and Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn but UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging. Sadly, many sunscreens in the US still don’t protect against UVA – so check the labels. The Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) in the US has started to recognize the potential threats of UVA as a cause for skin cancer. Unfortunately, the FDA has been slow to evaluate and approve new chemical formulations that would offer better protection against UVA – some of which have been available in Europe for many years and have a proven safety record.

The second important factor in protecting our skin if the SPF of the sunscreen we use. For most people it only takes 20 minutes of direct exposure to the sun for their skin to turn red. Theoretically an SPF 15 sunscreen prevents reddening 15 times longer – around 5 hours. Most physicians and dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30. SPF1 5 filters out about 93% of the UVB rays, SPF 30 97% and SPF 50 98% of the rays. No sunscreen completely protects your skin from sun exposure. I take no chances I always go for SPF sunscreens.

Lastly, it is important to know that no sunscreen is waterproof – they are only water resistant. This is not just about being in the water, it also applies to sweat. So, if you are in a hot, sweltering climate the same rules apply as jumping into a pool or swimming in the sea. The advice is to apply sunscreen every two hours and more frequently if you are swimming or sweating.

Webmd recently published a summary of the 2019 Consumer Reports on top sunscreens. The full report costs money but the Webmd article lists the top two in each category. 82 different products were tested. All the top 10 sunscreens tested were chemical sunscreens rather than minerals sunscreens, and all contained oxybenzone. Recently, oxybenzone has been highlighted by the American Academy of Pediatrics due to potential concerns about hormone disruption in children.

The results of the Consumer Reports study were as follows:
  1. Top Lotions: La Roche-Posay, Anthelios 60 Melt-in sunscreen milk, $36 and BullFrog, Land Sport Quik Gel, SPF 50, $13
  2. Top Sprays: Trader Joe’s, Spray SPF 50 50+, $6 and Banana Boat, SunComfort Clear Mist, SPF 50+, $13
  3. Top Sunscreens without Oxybenzone: Walgreens Hydrating Lotion SPF 50, $3 and Hawaiin Tropic Sheer Touch Ultra Radiance Lotion SPF 50, $8
  4. Top Mineral Sunscreens: California Kids #supersensitive Lotion, SPF 30+, $20 and Badger Active Natural Mineral Cream, SPF 30 $16

So, as you prepare for spending time outdoors this summer please think about protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Cover up and creme up!!

Have a great and safe summer!

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