Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Sunscreen mistakes to avoid

May is skin cancer awareness month.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime. As the summer months approach, it's important to keep you skin safe from dangerous UV rays.

Five Common Sunscreen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them:

  1. Ignoring the label. There are a variety of sunscreens on the market. To effectively protect yourself from the sun, the AAD recommends looking for sunscreens that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant and have an SPF of 30 or higher.
  2. Using too little. Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. However, to fully cover their body, most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen - or enough to fill a shot glass. Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that isn't covered by clothing. Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours while outdoors or after swimming or sweating.
  3. Applying only in sunny weather. Alarmingly, the AAD found that only about 20% of Americans use sunscreen on cloudy days. However, the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate your skin. To protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer, apply sunscreen every time you are outside, even on cloudy days.
  4. Using an old bottle. The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. Throw out your sunscreen if it's expired or you're unsure how long you've had it. In the future, if you buy a sunscreen that lacks an expiration date, write the purchase date directly on the bottle so that you know when to toss it out.
  5. Relying solely on sunscreen. Since no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun's UV rays, it's also important to seek shade and wear protective clothing, including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.


For more information about how to spot and prevent skin cancer, visit www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer
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