Skin cancer and sunscreens


Over 2 million people are diagnosed with more than 3.5 million skin cancers each year.¹  In addition, there is significant evidence that sunburns increase the risk for melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.²  Regardless of the color of your skin, a broad-spectrum (provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be used every day of the year.

Sunlight has two types of rays which can harm us, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  UVA rays, which can pass through glass and penetrate into the dermis of the skin, suppress the ability of our immune system to protect against the development and spread of skin cancer.  UVA exposure also predisposes us to signs of premature aging, including wrinkling and sun spots.  UVB rays are blocked by glass, but are the primary cause of sunburn.  Exposure to both types of UV rays increases the risk of skin cancer.  Tanning beds and sun lamps also contain UV radiation, and are therefore not recommended.

On days when you will be primarily inside, apply sunscreen to exposed areas, including your face, ears, and hands.  On days when you will be outside, apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes over all areas before heading out.  Coat your skin liberally and rub in the product.  Don’t forget your lips!  Use a lip balm that contains a sunscreen.  Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.  No sunscreen protects 100% against UV rays, and using sunscreen does not mean that you can stay out in the sun longer.

There are many excellent sunscreens available.  Our personal favorite is PCA Skin’s Perfecting Protection SPF 30.  Ingredients to look for on the sunscreen label to ensure broad-spectrum UV coverage include: avobenzone, cinoxate, ecamsule,menthyl anthranilate, octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.


1Rogers, HW, Weinstock, MA, Harris, AR, et al. Incidence estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the United States, 2006. Arch Dermatol 2010; 146(3):283-287.
2Elwood JM, Jopson J.  Melanoma and sun exposure:  an overview of published studies.  Int J Cancer 1997; 73(2):198-203.