Skin Cancer Prevention

There are many things patients can do to prevent skin cancer, sunburn, and chronic sun damage (like wrinkles, freckling, and thin skin):

  • Avoid direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or higher.
  • Apply 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
  • Reapply every 2 hours or after heavy perspiration or swimming.
  • In the water, waterproof sunscreen lasts about 80 minutes; water resistant lasts only about 40 minutes.
  • 1 ounce (about a shot glass) is enough to cover one adult for one application.
  • Check the expiration dates—don’t use if expired. The chemicals breakdown and may not be effective.
  • Wear broad brimmed hats and sun-protective clothing.
  • Seek shade.
  • Don’t use sunscreen on children younger than 6 months old: their skin is more absorbent than older children and adults and they should not be in the sun anyway.
  • Daily use is best (around 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays may still penetrate cloud cover).
  • Avoid tanning beds. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan.”
  • Don’t get a “base tan”— avoid tanning altogether.

Ultraviolet Light and Sunscreen

Certain medicines may make you more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Use a sunscreen with one of the following 4 ingredients to obtain adequate protection:

  • Physical blockers: zinc or titanium
  • Chemical blockers: avobenzone (aka, Parsol 1789) or ecamsule (aka Mexoryl—only found in L’Oreal products)

Additionally, UVA can penetrate window glass.

Because avobenzone breaks down quickly, some companies have combined it and stabilized it with oxybenzone, allowing it to protect its user for a longer period of time. For example, Neutrogena’s Helioplex™ and Aveeno’s Active Photobarrier Complex™ are the same molecule combined from these two ingredients.


Tanning beds provide the wrong kind of ultraviolet light for your skin to make vitamin D. Instead, they provide the type that makes wrinkles and skin cancer. Vitamin D is available in supplements and foods (like eggs, milk, fish, etc.), which may be healthier options for obtaining it than the cancer causing rays of the sun.

If you want the darker color on your skin, the so called “self-tanning” lotions, creams, and sprays are a safer option. Many brands have improved their formulations over the past couple of years to avoid the orange-colored “fake tan” that everyone wants to avoid.

Tretinoin (Vitamin A derivative)

Tretinoin is a topical, modified form of vitamin A and may be beneficial for sundamaged and/or aging skin. It is usually used as acne medicine, but off-label (not FDA-approved), it can also reduce or remove pre-precancers, superficial fine wrinkling, and certain brown spots. It is only available by prescription.

For more information, see the following links:

(We have no conflict of interest with any brands mentioned on our website. If we recommend or mention them, it is because we feel they work well.)

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