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Applying Sunscreen: You’re (Probably) Doing It Wrong

Publication: Healthy Magazine, McAllen

The arrival of 100-degree temperatures means it’s time to pay close attention to sun safety and skin cancer prevention. The danger of the abundant sunshine we encounter in our ‘wide open spaces’ state is unmistakable: more than 5,000 Texans will face melanoma this year.

Using sunscreen is essential to sun protection, but the bad news is that when it comes to applying sunscreen, many of us are doing it wrong. The good news is that doing it right can be summed up in two words: use more.

Some studies suggest people typically apply only about 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen and often fail to reapply sunscreen as needed. Different types of sunscreen require varying frequencies for re-application, especially with recent changes to the labeling requirements. It’s best to follow the instructions on your particular sunscreen.

Understanding what kind of sunscreen works best should be easier this year, thanks to new FDA labeling guidelines. Sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” are now backed by testing, ensuring they are as effective as promised. Also, sunscreens can no longer be labeled “waterproof” or “sweat-proof,” but rather “water-resistant” and “sweat-resistant.” This small change is an important reminder that one application of sunscreen is not enough. Skin damage from the sun takes many forms, including sunburns, wrinkles and several types of skin cancer. In fact, skin cancer is so common that nearly half of Americans 65 and older will have at least one case of the two most common skin cancers in their lifetime. Protecting yourself from sun damage prevents annoyances like sunburns now and health risks like skin cancer later.

As the summer heats up, here’s what Texans need to know about sun safety:

    BE SUN SMART: Anyone can get skin cancer. Everyone can take steps to reduce skin cancer risk. Family history and naturally fair skin cannot be changed, but exposure to UVA and UVB lights can be limited. Stay out of the sun during the middle of the day, avoid tanning lamps and use sunscreen as directed.

    CHECK FOR A, B, C AND D: Check any moles or changes on your skin against these symptoms, and if they match, consult a dermatologist for further testing.

    ASYMMETRY: One side of the mole is different from the other in size, shape, color or thickness.

    BORDER: The edge or border of the mole is not smooth.

    COLOR: The color of the mole contains various shades of tan, brown or black.

    DIAMETER: Skin cancer melanomas are usually larger than 6 millimeters in diameter, but they can be smaller.

    THINK BEYOND SUNSCREEN: To stay safe outside, cover up! Always use sunscreen, even on hazy or cloudy days, because UVA and UVB rays can still penetrate clouds. But there’s more to sun protection than slathering on sunscreen. Wide-brim hats, sunglasses with UVA and UVB blocking lenses, long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts can all help prevent skin cancer. Many people find that natural fibers are more breathable and help them stay cooler during hot Texas summers.

A little common-sense prevention now can help avoid many health concerns later. To learn more about sun safety and skin cancer prevention, visit www.TexasOncology.com.

By Joseph P. Litam, M.D., Texas Oncology–McAllen

To view the original story, please click here.

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