Green Bay –Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, and here in Wisconsin, more than 5,000 surgeries were performed for malignant skin cancer removal last year, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
It is widely known that sunscreen plays an important role in the prevention of skin cancer, but not everyone is aware of how to use it most effectively and safely.
HSHS St. Vincent and St. Mary’s Hospitals offer the following answers to some commonly asked questions about sunscreen, with guidance from Prevea Dermatology experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
How often should sunscreen be applied?
Everyone above six months of age who will be spending any time outside (ideally, parents should avoid exposing babies younger than six months to the sun’s rays) should wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. Bottle directions may differ, but the general rule is to reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or toweling off. A higher-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication.
What sunscreen should I use?
Everyone should use sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection against ultraviolet A- and B-rays (UVA and UVB); a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher; and water-resistance.
Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
Gels are good for hairy areas, such as the scalp.
Sticks are good to use around the eyes.
When using spray sunscreen, be sure to spray an adequate amount and rub in to ensure even coverage. Do not inhale these products or apply near heat, open flame or while smoking. (Current FDA regulations on testing and standardization do not pertain to spray sunscreens. The FDA continues to evaluate these products to ensure safety and effectiveness.)
Does sunscreen expire?
The FDA requires all sunscreens to retain their original strength for at least three years. Some sunscreens include an expiration date. If the expiration date has passed, throw out the sunscreen. If you buy a sunscreen that does not have an expiration date, write the date you purchased the sunscreen on the bottle. Also, any obvious changes in the color or consistency of sunscreen mean it’s time to throw it out.
In addition to wearing sunscreen – seeking shade under a tree, umbrella or other shelter, as well as wearing wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, and tightly woven clothing, or long sleeves and pants can protect you from harmful UV rays. For more information about how to practice sun safety this summer, please visit: https://www.prevea.com/For-Patients/Your-Wellness/Resources/Remember-to-Practice-Sun-Safety