Is Sunscreen Actually Effective at Preventing Skin Cancer?

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Now that summer’s here, you’ve probably spent plenty of time outside enjoying the sun. Chances are you have more plans to do the same in the near future. Like most people, before exposing your skin to the sun, you likely reach for the bottle of sunscreen and apply a fresh coat. The truth, however, is that your favorite brand may not be 100% effective at preventing skin cancer.

While the sun feels great and tans often look even better, exposure comes with a huge risk. Too much of a good thing, in this case, could result in the rarest and most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. Unfortunately, people aren’t doing enough if they think sunscreen will protect them, even if they limit exposure.

Recently, researchers found that even an SPF 50 version of sunscreen wasn’t enough to significantly slow the development of cancer in mice they tested it on. They fared better than mice with no sunscreen, of course, but not enough to be able to say you’d be safe with the product alone.

Dermatologists have preached this gospel for years though. While sunscreen is an important weapon in your arsenal, it may not be enough to win the war against skin cancer. Wearing clothing that covers your entire body is also important and shedding it only when it means swimming or enjoying the sun for a brief amount of time. Trips to the beach should be augmented by umbrellas or awnings that will give you shade. Wear wide brimmed hats outdoors too.

The sun is usually at its worst in terms of UV rays between 10am and 2pm, so dermatologists recommend staying indoors during this time altogether.

Sunscreen still has its place, but it’s no match for endless exposure. When you do pick a brand, though, choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and that has at least an SPF of 30.

It’s important to know too that melanoma, unlike other forms of skin cancer, may have a strong genetic correlation. So if you have a history of it in your family, sun exposure may not be your biggest risk factor. If this is the case for you, speak to a doctor about it today. Still follow the above instructions, though, as there’s no sense in taking unnecessary risks.