Sunscreen and UV Rays

Sunscreens use chemicals to block ultraviolet (UV) rays, whereas sunblocks physically block UV rays. There are two types of UV rays and both have the potential to cause skin cancer:
  • Ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays cause underlying skin damage leading to wrinkles and age spots.
  • Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays cause the visible sunburn seen on the skin.
The skin protection factor (SPF) measures how well the product protects your skin from UVB rays. It is the ratio of how long you could spend in the sun before burning when you are wearing sunscreen vs. when you are not.

Sunscreen Labeling

The FDA requires labeling with ‘Broad Spectrum,’ meaning that the SPF is reflecting both the UVB and UVA protection. Labeling also includes using the term ‘water resistant’ for 40 or 80 minutes to indicate the length of time one is protected while swimming or sweating

Why Worry About UV Ray Exposure?

Although the sun and tanning booths may give us that bronze skin we desire, these harmful rays can also cause irreversible, unseen damage to your skin. In addition to causing premature aging, early wrinkles, and age spots, these rays can lead to skin cancers, such as melanoma.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. It can occur when there is UV damage to the skin cells, which multiply and may ultimately form a malignant (cancerous) tumor. Although this cancer begins in the skin cells, it can spread to other parts of the body and become harder to treat and cure. If it is caught early enough, melanoma can be successfully treated

Risk Factors
  • Moles on the skin.
  • Skin Types: People with fair skin and freckles are at higher risk because they have less melanin (the pigments that give skin color) which protects the skin from damage.
  • UV exposure: Repetitive burns and blistering from the sun or tanning beds create increased risk.
  • Family history: First degree relatives such as a sibling or parent.
  • Weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment.

Checklist

Have your physician perform a comprehensive skin examination annually. Monthly self-skin checks can be done at home examining every inch of your skin. Look for the warning signs known as the ABCDEs of melanoma.
  • Asymmetry: The two halves of the mole will not match.
  • Border: The boarders of the mole will be uneven.
  • Color: The mole has a variety of colors or may become red, blue, or other color.
  • Diameter: Large in diameter (1/4 inch or larger).
  • Evolution: Any change in size, shape, color, or elevation.

Protect Yourself
  • Use broad spectrum sunscreens of at least SPF 15 (SPF 30 is preferred) every time you are in the sun.
  • - An SPF of 30 blocks approximately 97% of the UVB rays
    - Anything greater than SPF 50 doesn’t provide much added protection.
  • Stay in the shade or keep your skin covered between 10am and 4pm.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours.
  • Avoid tanning in the sun and using UV tanning beds.
  • Avoid using sunscreen on babies younger than six months old. It is best to keep them out of the sun or covered up in the shade.

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