Sun Protection: Sunscreen May Not Be Enough

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - A study casting new light on sunscreen, a comprehensive review of sun protection strategies concludes we should stop trusting sunscreen as the front line of defense against harmful rays.

And instead, wear sun blocking clothing or stay out of the sun, altogether.

Studies have shown sunscreen protects against two of the three most common skin cancers -- basal carcinomas and squamous cell carcinoma.

But it hasn't been conclusively shown to protect against melanoma, the most fatal kind of skin cancer.

"The other thing that we don't talk about so much is UVA rays. So, SPF protects against UVB rays or measures UVB protection, but not our UVA protection."

Dermatologist Doctor Matthew Doppelt says that's not to downplay the importance of applying sunscreen daily.

Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and has a sun protection factor of at least 15.

Though, wearing sun-protective clothing and a hat and keeping sun exposure to a minimum is preferred.

"Clothing does actually do a pretty good job of protecting the sun, as long as it's a pretty tight weave of cotton-type clothing,” suggests Dr. Doppelt.

Dry clothes are better at blocking UV rays than wet, stretched or bleached clothing.

If you must be outside during the sun's strongest hours, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., seek shade.

"As far as we know, we're telling our patients to do the best thing by protecting themselves from the sun and use a sunscreen, however, sun avoidance would actually be a better alternative,” Dr. Doppelt says.

If there's no shade, pack your own, bring an umbrella or a hat and always use sunglasses.

In addition to protecting yourself against skin damage, you're also helping to minimize the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles.

Free radical damage occurs as we age, but it's aggravated by environmental factors, including cigarette smoke, air pollution, UV radiation and ozone.

Most skin care physicians agree antioxidants are key in creating an anti-aging skin care regimen, because they're our body's natural defense against these free radicals.


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  • by Brian on May 14, 2007 at 07:19 PM
    No matter what steps are taken to reduce sun or tanning exposure it is still important to carefully examine your skin for suspicious moles that could portend a deadly melanoma. The traditional ABCD criteria can help guide risk assessment. A, for asymmetric lesions; B for moles with irregular Borders; C, for colors in the lesion; and D, for diameter greater than the tip of an eraser. More recently physicians have recognized the importance of moles that are new or getting larger in predicting high risk lesions. They have now added E for enlargement to the criteria and many recommend following the ABCDE’s. Although dermatologists almost always ask if you have any new or changing moles most people cannot accurately answer that question (particularly those with numerous moles and the greatest risk). One way to approach this problem for people at high risk is to use Total Body Photography to document the moles on your body. However, this is an expensive procedure (often costing $400-$600) that most insurance providers will not cover. There is now an inexpensive software program that allows people to use their own digital cameras at home to take their own body images at different time intervals (maximizing privacy). The images can be scaled and aligned and compared using a personal computer to allow for the efficient recognition of new or growing moles. This software was developed from funding provided by the National Cancer Institute and can be obtained by going to the website www.dermalert.com

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