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When it comes to skin cancer prevention, beware of SPF claims

Posted on by Shanthi Sivendran, MD

 

Updated July 13, 2018

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, Consumer Reports warns that not all sunscreens are what they claim to be. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe in the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Most cases are non-melanoma skin cancer--basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Nearly 100,000 individuals, however, will develop invasive melanoma, the most serious and potentially deadly form of skin cancer. If you have fair skin, light-colored eyes and hair, moles, a history of sunburns, or a family history of melanoma, you are at greater risk.

6 tips to 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. For the fourth year in a row, Consumer Reports found that 43% 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 that offer UV protection every day. Melanoma can develop in the eyes, so it’s essential to shield them from the sun’s rays.

  • Try avoiding the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The sun is strongest during the late morning and afternoon hours. And remember, the sun’s rays are damaging even on cooler 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. If you need to find a dermatologist, please click here.

 | LGHP - Hematology & Medical Oncology

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.

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