Use sunscreen daily to help prevent against premature aging and skin cancers
Though we enjoy beautiful sunny weather year-round in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as the summer months approach, the sun’s rays are even stronger due to the Earth’s tilt. It’s a good time to take stock of your skincare practices, take an inventory of your sunscreen, and commit to practicing safe sun prevention.
There are four main forms of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell cancer, and Melanoma. Approximately 1% of skin cancers are classified as melanoma. However, melanoma accounts for most skin cancer deaths. People with lighter complexions are at the most risk of developing skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, whites are 20 times more likely to develop melanoma than African Americans. The lifetime risks of developing melanoma break down to 2.6% (1 in 38) for whites; 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for African Americans; and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Latinx. Source: American Cancer Society
Skin cancer can develop in anyone of any age or race. It’s important to keep an eye on any moles or pigmented areas on your skin for irregularities or changes.
To help you spot skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone learn the ABCDEs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- B is for Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color that varies from one area to another.
- D is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E is for Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
Regular use of sun protection can help to prevent premature aging and reduce the risk of skin cancers.
Sunscreen comes in two different forms: Physical blockers that deflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and Chemical blockers that the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Some of the chemicals typically used in sunscreens have raised concerns, though there is currently no clinical evidence that shows they are harmful to humans. The risks of sun exposure developing into skin cancer are well known and thus regular use of sunscreen is recommended.
The recommended amount of sunscreen to use for an adult is approximately a shot glass–sized amount for the body and a teaspoonful for your face.
Tips for Choosing Sunscreen and Protecting Your Skin
- Choose Reef Safe Sunscreen. It’s the law in the USVI. Chemicals in regular sunscreen have been shown to cause significant damage to our delicate coral reefs. You don’t have to wear chemical sunscreen in the ocean to have an effect. Runoff from showering off sunscreen eventually ends up in our waters.
- Choose a “Broad Spectrum” Sunscreen. This means that it filters out both UVA and UVB sun rays.
- Choose SPF 30 or higher: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher.
- Water Resistant. Whenever possible choose a sunscreen that says that it is “water-resistant” which means it will stay sticky on sweaty skin or while you swim. Remember that even water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied every 40-80 minutes.
- Check for expiration. Sunscreens are required by the FDA to last for at least 3 years. Some sunscreens include an expiration date on the bottle. If yours doesn’t, use an indelible marker or label to mark the date of purchase on the bottle. You should be using your sunscreen liberally and often enough that it gets used up well before the three-year mark.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses and regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply at least every two hours.
- Avoid sitting in the direct sunlight. Whenever possible, choose a shady spot or carry a beach tent with you for cover. Try to avoid the direct sun for especially from 10 am to 4 pm.
- Wear UV filtering clothing and hats. Choose rash guards and other clothing with at least 38-40 UPF (UPF = Ultraviolet Protection Factor)
Prevention is the best cure. However, if you notice something irregular or concerning on your skin, be sure to have it checked out right away by a medical professional. Plessen’s Urgent Care is available seven days a week or you can make an appointment with your Primary Care Physician at Plessen Medical Center for evaluation.
Plessen Healthcare, LLC provides articles in our online library related to current health and wellness topics. Please make note of the date of the article or update as health information can change with updated science. Regardless of the date, no content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician.