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Does Sunscreen Help Prevent Skin Cancer?

Does sunscreen help prevent skin cancer? Many doctors believe that sunscreens can help prevent skin cancer, especially those that reflect, absorb, and/or scatter both types of ultraviolet radiation. The best sunscreen products will be labeled with "broad-spectrum coverage." However, other methods of protecting oneself against ultraviolet radiation, such as sunglasses and long clothing, are necessary as well.

Does Sunscreen Help Prevent Skin Cancer?

There is evidence that sunscreens can protect against the development of skin cancer, both in animal models and in people. Studies have shown that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can induce tumors in animals and that sunscreen can help prevent this. But sun protection is more than just sunscreens. By understanding sun protection, you may be able to reduce the risk for skin cancer caused by UV radiation.
 

Suggestions for Skin Cancer Prevention

Doctors recommend that people take steps to help prevent and reduce the risk of skin cancer caused by UV radiation. Recommendations include:
 
  • Avoid exposure to the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) whenever possible. When your shadow is shorter than you are, remember to protect yourself from the sun.
 
  • If you must be outside, wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hat with a wide brim.
 
  • Protect yourself from UV radiation that can penetrate light clothing, windshields, and windows.
 
  • Protect yourself from UV radiation reflected by sand, water, snow, and ice.
 
  • Help protect your skin by using a lotion, cream, or gel that contains sunscreen. Many doctors believe sunscreens may help prevent skin cancer, especially those that reflect, absorb, and/or scatter both types of ultraviolet radiation. These sunscreen products will be labeled with "broad-spectrum coverage." Sunscreens are rated in strength according to a sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection is provided. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 to 11 provide minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 to 29 provide moderate protection. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher provide the most protection against sunburn.
 
  • Wear sunglasses that have UV-absorbing lenses. The label should specify that the lenses block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Sunglasses can protect both the eyes and the skin around the eyes.
 
  • People whose skin tans poorly or who burn easily may have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. These people in particular may benefit by following prevention methods for skin cancer.
 
(Click Skin Cancer Prevention for more tips on preventing various types of skin cancer.)
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