Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Melanoma rates have doubled between 1982 and 2011, and more than 90 percent of melanoma skin cancers in the U.S. are from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. The primary sources of UV ray exposure – sunlight and tanning beds.
While there are a variety of precautions you can take to limit your risk of skin cancer, two important ones include avoiding tanning beds and wearing sunscreen on a regular basis. Research has found that daily usage of sunscreen can cut the incidence of melanoma in half. That’s a powerful reason to wear sunscreen.
If you’ve spent time shopping for it, you’ve probably been left with more questions than answers. Does a higher SPF offer better protection? Which is better, lotion or spray? If you’re not getting in the water but sweat a lot, should you use a water resistant product?
Though every sunscreen question doesn’t have an exact answer, there are general guidelines you can follow to make sure you’re buying quality sunscreen and using it the right way.
There’s no one perfect sunscreen, but you should read the label on what you’re buying to make sure it has these three things:
Despite the various application methods for sunscreen, what you should use comes down to what you prefer, for the simple reason you’re more likely to use it. A couple of things worth pointing out:
Again, there aren’t any major benefits associated with one versus another as long as you wear the amount recommended on the product. You might consider where on your body you’re putting it and the type of activities you’ll be doing when you choose one.
Timing, quantity, and frequency are the big things to focus on with sunscreen. You should always follow the directions on the product, but below are good strategies you can use regardless of your sunscreen type:
Remember, if it’s cloudy, overcast, or even winter, you still need to wear sunscreen – UV rays can pass through clouds and reflect off of snow.
(Note: This article focused on the use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. In addition to the use of sunscreen, it’s also important to never use tanning beds; limit your time in the sun, especially during peak hours [10 a.m. and 2 p.m.]; wear protective clothing outdoors; and seek shade whenever you can.)