May 3, 2022

Is Sunscreen Enough to Prevent Skin Cancer?

Is Sunscreen Enough to Prevent Skin Cancer?

Regardless of your age, preventing skin cancer should be a priority. Applying sunscreen every day is an effective way for anyone to minimize their risk of developing skin cancer. Even if you don't plan to spend a whole day out in direct sunlight or on a cloudy day, applying sunscreen is important.

How exactly does sunscreen work to prevent skin cancer? What’s the best way to apply it? Is it enough to stave off skin cancer? Below, we've broken down everything you need to know about sunscreen for skin cancer prevention.

What Kind of Sunscreen is Recommended to Prevent Skin Cancer?

It’s recommended that individuals use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. You'll want to cover all exposed skin and reapply as needed, especially if you plan to spend an extended period in direct sunlight. Sunscreen is also best combined with protective clothing to help keep your skin protected. Consider hats and sunglasses as well. Try to spend a portion of your outside time in a shaded area to protect your skin naturally if you're able to.

What does broad-spectrum mean?

Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from UVA as well as UVB rays. UVA and UVB are the two types of radiation emitted from the sun. UVA rays are more responsible for visible signs of aging from the sun, and they also penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB. UVB rays are responsible for having carcinogenic effects (or causing cancer). This is why it is so vital to select a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and other types of skin damage, including damage to your DNA.

Why does SPF matter?

SPF is short for sun protection factor and measures the sunscreen's ability to protect your skin from the sun's UVB rays. Since UVB rays are more likely to cause cancer, sunscreen with a high SPF rating is vital. It’s a myth that lower SPF works just as well as high SPF. Although it is generally recommended that individuals use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15, you may want to opt for something even higher, especially if your skin burns quickly.

How to Correctly Apply Sunscreen

To properly apply sunscreen, apply a generous amount to all exposed parts of your skin. Make sure to use a thick layer, and have someone help you get harder to reach areas such as your back and shoulders. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you plan to be in the sun. This helps your skin absorb the sunscreen to ensure that it works well.

Be sure to always check your sunscreen's expiration date before using it. Most sunscreen is not good to use if it's been more than three years since its purchase date.

How much sunscreen should I apply?

Approximately one ounce of sunscreen should be enough to cover your entire body. This is the equivalent of two tablespoons and should be roughly enough to fill up a shot glass. You may have to use more than this if you plan to be outside for an extended time or if you have to cover a larger portion of your body, such as when wearing a bathing suit.

How often should I reapply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be reapplied roughly every two hours when out in the sun. When you reapply sunscreen, use the same amount as when you applied it initially. Also, make sure to reapply sunscreen immediately after going swimming or sweating. When you reapply after these situations, dry your skin first, then apply sunscreen to your dried skin.

Is Sunscreen Enough to Prevent Skin Cancer?

Although sunscreen is an effective method to help prevent skin cancer, it’s still possible to develop skin cancer even if you’re a regular sunscreen user. Always use other forms of skin protection, such as wearing protective clothing, spending time in the shade, and avoiding direct sunlight during peak hours (10:00 AM - 3:00 PM). Always wear a hat when spending time outside; take steps to protect the ears, neck, and lips; and apply sunscreen daily (even if you don't plan on spending much time outside).

Other Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer or Find it at a Very Early Stage

Since sunscreen alone may not be enough to prevent skin cancer, you should take additional steps to prevent cancer, including:

  • Examine your skin regularly and look for any abnormalities.

  • Avoid unnecessary UV exposure, such as from indoor tanning beds.

  • Have your skin professionally examined by a dermatologist once per year.

  • If you notice any concerning spots on your skin, seek medical care immediately.

Early detection of skin cancer can help with treatment and recovery, so it is super important to screen regularly for any potential signs.

There are even more ways to prevent skin cancer. The skin cancer doctors at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard have also compiled this list of skin cancer prevention tips for Florida residents.

Performing a Skin Self-Exam

It is important to check your skin from head-to-toe monthly to look for any abnormal blemishes or new spots that may be cancerous. Use a mirror and stand in a well-lit room to check your skin. Check every part of your body to the best of your ability, and pay close attention to look for any new or abnormal markings. Make sure to see your doctor immediately. But if you find an abnormal marking, try not to panic as skin cancer is not the only cause of these. Self-examining your skin is practical and helpful, but it is still essential to have your skin checked yearly by a dermatologist to help catch any signs of skin cancer early.

Skin Cancer Care is Available in Brevard County

Cancer Care Centers of Brevard offers a variety of treatment options for individuals who are diagnosed with skin cancer. Our skin cancer specialists cater to each patient's unique needs and strive to help you feel your absolute best no matter your diagnosis. Whether you need skin cancer treatment or a second opinion on diagnosis, find a skin cancer expert at one of our locations in Melbourne, Rockledge, Palm Bay, and Merritt Island, FL. We even work with your other care providers to provide the highest quality of care.

Categories: Skin Cancer