Will Sunscreen Prevent Skin Cancer?
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.