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Which Sunscreen is Best to Protect Against Skin Cancer?

By Zaw Min Bo, M.D., OHC Medical Oncologist, All Posts, Diseases, 0 comments
May 1, 2017

 
Zaw Min Bo MD OHC Medical Oncologist

Zaw Min Bo, M.D.
OHC Medical Oncologist

Choosing a good sunscreen used to be easy. Now there’s SPF, UVA, UVB, broad spectrum, dermatologically tested, water-resistent, and waterproof. You can opt for a specific target group product such as baby formula or sports formula. You can buy it in stick, cream, lotion, or spray. With so many options, how do you know which is best for protecting against skin cancer?

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology found that many people don’t understand how to read a sunscreen label or how the product protects the skin from burns damage and skin cancer. Only 43 percent of survey respondents understood the meaning of an SPF (sun protection factor) value.Choosing a good sunscreen used to be easy. Now there’s SPF, UVA, UVB, broad spectrum, dermatologically tested, water-resistent and waterproof. You can opt for a specific target group product such as baby formula or sports formula. You can buy it in stick, cream, lotion or spray. With so many options, how do you know which is best for protecting against skin cancer?

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology revealed that many people don’t know what the various terms mean, including SPF, the most common term when it comes to sunscreen.

The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning. If you have very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer or conditions that increase sensitivity to sunlight, you should consider SPF 30 or higher. You should also know that SPF 30 doesn’t mean it’s twice as strong as SPF 15. Higher SPF factors only offer a slight improvement.

There is no rating to tell you how good a sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays, so look for one of these ingredients: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone or zinc oxide.

Your best bet is a sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. These products are often called broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection. Look for these Ingredients: benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).

The terms “water-resistant” and “sweat-resistant” indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when you are swimming or sweating.

Another helpful tip is to look for the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation to assure that a product is safe and effective.

Skin Cancer Seal Daily UseThe Daily Use Seal is used for sunscreens that are intended to protect customers from incidental sun exposure, the kind that occurs over short periods of time and might include walking to and from the car, going to work, and running errands. Examples of Daily Use sunscreens include moisturizers, color cosmetics, foundations, eye creams, and lip products. This seal includes a UVA protection requirement.

Skin Cancer Seal Active UseThe Active Seal is used for sunscreens that should protect the wearer from extended sun exposure, such as exposure received outdoors during recreational activities. Examples might include high SPF products, sport sunscreens, zinc oxide/titanium dioxide sticks, and baby products. This seal includes a UVA protection and water-resistance requirement.

Skin Cancer Seal RecommendedThe Traditional Seal is used for all sun protection products excluding sunscreens. Examples include sunglasses, auto and residential window film and glass, awnings/umbrellas, clothing, and laundry products. The testing requirements include a ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or higher for clothing and fabrics, and 99% or greater blockage of ultraviolet A (UVA) UVA and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation for sunglasses and UV films.

Find out your level of risk for skin cancer by taking the Fitzpatrick Skin Type test here. You can find more information on skin cancer here.

 
 

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