Learning Center

Jan 29, 2015

Don’t Get Burned: Facts about Sun Protection

~ by Dr. Carol Bridges

Exposure to the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. It’s estimated that there are more than 800,000 cases new cases of skin cancer each year.
Even worse, the depletion of the ozone layer has exposed all of us to even more damaging sunlight. The good news is, you can protect yourself with sunscreen — and sun smarts.

Sunscreen: How Much is Enough?

One ounce is considered an appropriate amount to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Be sure to apply a generous amount, paying close attention to the face, ears, hands, and arms. Don’t forget that your lips can get sunburned too, so apply lip balm that also contains sunscreen.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or perspiring heavily. Even “water resistant” sunscreens lose their effectiveness after an hour in the water. Sunscreen can also be rubbed off, so be sure to reapply it if you’ve dried off with a towel.

When to Use Sunscreen.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that everyone should wear sunscreen. You should wear it every day if you’re going to be in the sun more than 20 minutes. In fact, sunscreen used on a regular basis actually allows some repair of damaged skin.

How to Buy Sunscreen.

Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that screens both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid PABA, which only protects against UVA rays. Instead, look for these ingredients: benophenones, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, and ecamsule.
Sun Smarts: How to Protect Yourself.

  • Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. There are many new sun-protective clothes including shirts and long shorts.
  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand; they reflect the damaging rays of the sun and increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Artificial radiation carries all the risks of natural sunlight.


UVA rays and UVB rays: The Inside Story

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays: UVA rays and UVB rays. UVB rays are what burn you; they cause sunburn and skin cancer. UVA light penetrates deeper into the skin, but can contribute to skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause suppression of the immune system, which can further increase your risk of skin cancer.