Most skin cancer, the most common type of cancer, can be avoided by limiting
exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from man-made sources, such as
indoor tanning beds. More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year
in the U.S. Of the UV reaching the earth’s surface, 95% is UVA, and 5% is UVB.
UVB is 1000 times more potent than UVA, for example, in causing sunburn. Both
UVA and UVB rays cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer.
Ways to lower the chances of getting skin cancer are:
• Stay out of the sun when the sun is the strongest, between the hours of 10 a.m.
and 4 p.m., even on hazy and cloudy days.
• Protect skin by wearing a hat, shirt, and sunglasses when in the sun. If light can
get through your clothing, so can some UV. Both adult and children’s
sunglasses should be labeled “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI
UV Requirements” and block at least 99% of UV rays. Those labeled
“cosmetic” block about 70% of UV rays. Sunglasses without a label may not
provide any UV protection. Be aware that UV protection comes from an
invisible chemical in or applied to the lenses, not from the color or darkness
of the lenses.
• Use generous amounts of a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against
both UVA and UVB rays—most people do not use enough. Choose a
sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, (SPF 30 or higher
is somewhat better) and reapply it every two hours. A higher SPF number
means more UVB protection—it does not describe UVA protection. For
example, when using an SPF 15 sunscreen, you get the equivalent of one
minute of UVB rays for every 15 minutes in the sun. Remember, all sunscreens
only provide partial protection, and sunless tanning products do not protect
against UV damage.
• Don’t use tanning beds or sun lamps because they emit UVA and usually also
UVB rays. Tanning bed use has been linked with an increased risk of
melanoma, especially if its use started before the age of 30.
• Keep babies younger than six months out of direct sunlight and protect children
from the sun using sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing.
A study found that some of the 16 ingredients used in four sunscreens sold in the
U.S. are absorbed through the skin and can be measured in the bloodstream. The
FDA rates zinc oxide and titanium oxide as safe, but there is too little information
to rate the other 12 chemicals that were absorbed. In the study, avobenzone, the
most common ingredient used in sunscreens, and oxybenzone were both absorbed
and persisted in the bloodstream. Oxybenzone has been found to be toxic to corals
and is banned in some places. Because there is little research on the health effects
of sunscreen ingredients, the health effects of the chemicals that are absorbed is not
Early detection of skin cancer by visual inspection of the skin is usually not difficult
but may require evaluation by a dermatologist and require a skin biopsy to make a
diagnosis. If detected early, successful treatment is very likely for squamous cell
and basal cell cancers, the commonest forms of skin cancer. Early detection also
increases the likelihood of curing malignant melanoma, a more serious and sometimes
fatal form of skin cancer.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel