By Dr. Michelle Hure
Did you really think you’d get through Skin Cancer Awareness Month without a friendly PSA?
While it’s important to talk about skin cancer detection, I think it’s equally important to understand prevention and the myths surrounding it.
According to the World Health Organization, up to 90% of skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources, such as tanning beds (are people still doing that?!). This means that something as simple as daily sunscreen use can dramatically decrease your risk of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, so much misinformation surrounds sunscreen use. Let’s debunk the most common sunscreen myths I hear.
Myth #1: I don’t need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days
If you think this May gray means you don’t need sunscreen, think again. Up to 80% of UV radiation passes through clouds. It’s important to wear sunscreen every day, even when it’s overcast or raining.
Myth #2: Sunscreen is only necessary when hanging out at the beach
While it’s true that sunscreen is particularly important when spending time outdoors, it’s vital to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of whether you’re planning to spend time in the sun or not. UV radiation can reach your skin through car windows (even tinted ones), work or home windows, and skylights. Brief moments of sun exposure add up over time, increasing your risk of skin cancer.
Myth #3: Sunscreen is toxic and can cause more harm than good
While it’s true that some sunscreens contain chemicals that may be harmful to the environment or cause skin irritation, sunscreens are safe and effective when used correctly. No studies have shown that sunscreen ingredients cause cancer. The sun, however, does. Look for sunscreens that are labeled as “broad-spectrum” and have an SPF 30 or higher.
Myth #4: Sunscreen will prevent me from getting enough vitamin D
Studies have shown that using sunscreen does not significantly impact vitamin D levels in the body, and that people can still maintain adequate vitamin D levels while using daily sunscreen. In fact, you can still be vitamin D-deficient with excessive sun exposure! Safely get your vitamin D through diet and supplements.
Myth #5: Applying sunscreen once a day is enough
Absolutely no sunscreen works after two hours and even less time if you’re in the water or getting sweaty. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen to get the full SPF coverage or reapply. Rule of thumb is to use a nickel-sized amount on the face and shot glass for your entire body. Using less sunscreen means that your SPF 30 sunscreen may only be providing an SPF 10, which is far less protective.
Remember, no sunscreen will give you 100% protection from UV radiation. Make sure you make it part of your overall sun protection plan of wearing hats, UPF 50 clothing, sunglasses, avoiding peak hours of sun and, of course, getting your annual skin checks.
Dr. Hure is a double board-certified physician practicing medical, surgical, cosmetic dermatology and dermatopathology at Orange County SkinLab, her award-winning solo private practice clinic near the Los Rios District. She is a native Californian and proud to call San Juan Capistrano home, along with her two young daughters and husband.