We all know sunscreen is important, but how much is enough? And which kind is the best?
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America; and the National Institute of Health (NIH) states those over 65-years-old are the most at risk. It’s even more of an issue for Floridians, as this region has seen the second-most skin cancer diagnoses since 2011.
The NIH says elderly people are diagnosed the most because they have spent a lifetime taking in the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), among other health and medical groups, are urging the proper use of sunscreen to help prevent the disease.
But, outside of the general advice to use sunscreen, there are several other things that need to be done to make sure the sunscreen is effective.
How much is enough?
The AAD states most adults need about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to cover their body. That includes places you might not think about – the top of your feet, top ears or head, and the side of your neck.
If you swim or sweat it off, reapply.
Should sunscreen be called UV-screen?
Two of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had occurred on cloudy days. This is because I didn’t think to apply sunscreen. However, the American Cancer Society says 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays are still reaching your skin on cloudy days.
What kind of sunscreen is best?
Experts recommend a sunscreen that offers all the following:
- SPF 30 or higher. These block out 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays (which cause sunburn).
- Broad spectrum. These not only block UVB rays, but also UVA rays (which cause premature skin aging). Both UVA and UVB rays can lead to skin cancer.
- Titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If a sunscreen is broad spectrum, it probably has one of these ingredients, but these are noted to help prevent damage from UVA rays.
- Water resistant. We mentioned earlier to re-apply after you swim, but “water resistant” sunscreens will better protect you while you are in the water. Still re-apply after swimming.
What else can you do to protect yourself?
The AAD recommends finding shade whenever possible, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Dermatologists also suggest wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt (the more vivid the colors, the better) and pants.
While everyone is urged to go to these lengths to avoid skin cancer, one in five Americans will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. Early detection is key, so if you have not performed a self-exam for potential trouble spots, the AAD has some tips for you.
Florida has plenty of sunshine to offer to both residents and visitors. The key is to enjoy it safely!