During the summer months, it’s common practice for supermarkets to
set up special displays for sunscreen products. Unfortunately, this tends
to reinforce a common misconception: that sunscreen use is only important
during summer months and on sunny days. In fact, using sunscreen every
time you’re going outdoors even during the winter and on cloudy
days is crucial for cancer prevention. Here at
West Hills Hospital, our cancer care team encourages our neighbors to get proactive about
their skin health.
How Sunscreen Works
There are three wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, two of which
can adversely affect skin health. Sunscreen works in two primary ways
to block UV radiation. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are inorganic ingredients
commonly found in sunscreen. These ingredients work by essentially scattering
UV radiation to prevent it from penetrating the skin. Oxybenzone and octyl
methoxycinnamate are organic ingredients that work by absorbing the UV
radiation, which results in its dissipation as heat.
Which Sunscreen You Should Use
When purchasing sunscreen, look for a product labeled “broad spectrum,”
which indicates that it guards against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Another
factor to consider is the product’s Sun Protection Factor (SPF).
The higher the SPF is, the more effectively it will block UV-B rays. Many
lotions and lip balms contain 8 to 15 SPF, but this is insufficient if
you’re spending more than a few minutes outdoors.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UV-B rays, whereas SPF 30 filters out
about 97 percent.
How You Can Use Sunscreen Properly
It’s important to remember that even when you apply sunscreen with
a high SPF, you must reapply the product about every two hours to continue
protecting yourself. Many people fail to apply the proper amount of sunscreen,
which is one ounce or about the amount that would fill a shot glass. If
you aren’t applying this much sunscreen to your exposed skin, then
the actual SPF on your body is lower than what the product advertises.
West Hills Hospital connects area residents to compassionate
cancer care located right in their own community. Our state-of-the-art facility in
West Hills is also a proud provider of emergency care, spine health, maternity
care, and preventive wellness services. If you would like to speak with
a registered nurse at our community hospital, call (818) 676-4321.