“To help prevent skin cancer, it’s important to stay out of the sun or seek shade during the sun’s peak hours, and also use sunscreen with physical blockers,” said Joseph Schneider, DO, dermatologist at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. When outdoors, wear appropriate clothing such as a wide-brim hat and sunglasses with UV protection. Additionally, look for sunscreens with specific ingredients to help maximize your protection against the sun.
When shopping for sunscreen, check that the label includes the phrase “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the leading cause of skin cancer and the main cause of early aging, while UVB rays can cause severe sunburn.
Look for sunscreens with the ingredients zinc and titanium. Sunscreens with these ingredients do not have to be reapplied, unlike chemical sunscreens, which have to be reapplied every two hours.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with a SPF of 30. SPF, which stands for sun protection factor and relates to UVB rays, helps determine how long a person can stay in the sun without burning. To find out how long a sunscreen lasts, multiply the amount of time a person can stay in the sun without burning by the SPF number. For example, if you can stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun 30 times longer, or 300 minutes.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Your skin needs this time to absorb sunscreen so you are properly protected. Sunscreen should be applied liberally, covering the body with at least one ounce, or the size of a golf ball.
So how is it possible to get the appropriate amount of vitamin D but also protect skin by staying out of the sun? Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the recommended amount of vitamin D safely. Schneider recommends taking a D3 vitamin supplement. While the appropriate levels of vitamin D3 are not well defined, the current recommended dosage is 200 to 600 IU daily depending on age.
Schneider also recommends checking skin regularly for changes.
“With skin cancer, you have almost a 100 percent survival rate. With melanoma, the survival rate drops significantly,” Schneider said. “If you see a mole, get it checked out.”