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More than sunscreen needed to curb skin cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sunscreen and skin cancer

Sunscreen is essential for protecting from skin cancer and experts have advice that goes beyond just slathering on lotion during outdoor summer activities.

Information from the American Academy of Dermatology is timely and coincides with the Environmental Working Group’s release of top and safe sunscreens that you definitely want to check out. Some sunscreens are suspected to promote, rather than prevent cancer of the skin.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has even dubbed Memorial Day as “No Fry Day” to drive home the importance of taking steps to protect from skin cancer.

Rather than sun bathing, use self-tanning lotions and avoid indoor tanning. Lying in the sun, even with sunscreen raises the risk of basal cell skin cancer. Sunscreen users can be lulled into a false sense of security, stay in the sun longer, and absorb higher levels of UVA radiation that penetrates layers of skin, causing more harm from DNA damage than UVB rays that cause sunburn.

What is the best sunscreen

The National Council urges everyone not to rely on sunscreen alone for protection. Use it generously but also include sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat and protective clothing when outdoors for prolonged periods.

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In order to get enough vitamin D, which is also linked to overall health and well-being, including lower cancer risk, take supplements and eat foods fortified with the vitamin.

When outdoors, find a shady spot, inside a picnic shelter or under a tree. Skin cancer experts also suggest keeping track of the UV index, which can be found at the EPA website and is downloadable to mobile devices.

Young adults between the age of 15 and 29 are at highest risk for melanoma. While other cancer rates continue to decline, melanoma rates are increasing, showing the importance of wearing sunscreen, and taking other recommended precautions – in 2010 there were 68,130 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States.

The message with the arrival of summer is that sunscreen alone is not enough to curb the rising incidence of melanoma. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be two million new cases of basal and squamous cell carcinoma in the US this year and 68,000 new cases of melanoma.

Visit the Environmental Working Group site and check out their list of the 128 best sunscreens. In the report, 60 percent of 500 analyzed failed to protect from UVA, with SPF of 30 or higher, and many contain risky vitamin A that may promote skin cancer combined with sunshine. The EWG also tells us the best sunscreen is a “shirt and a hat”.

Image credit: Morgue file