Sunscreen & Skin Cancer

By John E. Hocutt, Jr., MD, The Villages Health® Colony Care Center

As a family physician, I’ve removed countless melanomas and pre-melanomas and other skin cancers at an alarming rate the past several years. And even more worrisome is the tremendous increase in young adults (20s and 30s) in whom I’ve found numerous cancerous and precancerous lesions.

However, we older folks are at high risk for skin cancers. The many years of cumulative sun damage (with or without sunscreen) and the age of our skin have reduced our resistance to sun damage leading to precancerous and cancerous growths.

A physician’s use of a “Derm scope” in the office makes the diagnosis of risky skin lesions much easier and more reliable in just a few seconds. Headset magnification is also very helpful.

So, get checked on a regular basis.

skin cancer prevention Evergreen WellnessSkin cancer is a VERY preventable and treatable disease. Cryo surgery (freezing), biopsy, and plastic surgery excision techniques make the treatment and prevention effective and relatively easy. Even better, don’t get sun burned and don’t use tanning salons (more on this below).

Sunscreens have been significantly improved the past few years.

sunscreen protection Evergreen WellnessOriginally, sunscreens only protected us against UV-A (ultraviolet A) band and did not do a good job preventing melanomas. Now they must protect against UV-A and UV-B and are much more effective preventing all skin cancers AND premature aging of the skin. The FDA has recently updated its recommendations regarding sunscreens.

First, they now have ample evidence that sunscreens are safe and their use far outweighs any risk from using the products. There is definitive proof they prevent melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer (SCC), and actinic keratoses (AKs).

Second, the FDA recommends sunscreen use along with sunglasses, shade, and protective clothing including hats (see Ricky Fowler!).

Third, be sure to use Broad Spectrum screens that protect against both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Use at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher to actually protect against skin cancer and aging.

Fourth, is tanning safe or protective? No. Tanning is the skin’s response to DNA damage, which may be permanent and cause photoaging. UV tanning lamps can be even more dangerous than the sun. Their use has been documented to be a cause or factor with all three major skin cancers.

Other Issues

sunscreen issues Evergreen WellnessSome products are water resistant and must specify if they have 40 or 80 minutes of protection while swimming or sweating. Products with an SPF rating of 2-14 must be labeled that they only protect against sunburn, not skin cancers or photoaging.

Realize sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours to truly protect skin from cancer and aging. So reapply if you swim or sweat your sunscreen off.  If you know you are not good at reapplying your sunscreen after swimming or perspiring, use a much higher number for more protection.

Nothing is ever simple these days. Now sunscreens are broken down into two more categories.

Daily use sunscreens will protect against “incidental” sun exposure over short periods of time, i.e., while doing errands or going to and from work.

Active use sunscreens protect against prolonged sun exposure and protect us while doing outdoor recreational activities.  They must have an SPF rating of 30 or higher.

Such approved sunscreen products will have these labels on them as of May 15, 2011:

sunscreen-skin-cancer-foundation-Evergreen-Wellness

Or, they may just have the traditional label below if they block 99% of UV-A and UV-B.

sunscreen-label-skin-cancer-foundation-Evergreen-Wellness

So, be sure to protect your skin AND get regular skin checks by your family physician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon. Have a great summer (which is essentially year round in The Villages)!

My comments are not intended as recommendations for individual treatment. See your personal physician, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner to decide what is best for you.

Last updated: 12.03.2018
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Written byDr. John Hocutt

John E. Hocutt, Jr., MD practices family and sports medicine at The Villages Health Colony Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, completed his residency at the Medical Center of Delaware, and is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. After more than three decades of practicing medicine, Dr. Hocutt firmly believes that it’s a team sport. “The patient should be an active participant in his or her care. Clear communication and respect are also critical for excellent patient care.” He is a published author, national speaker, dedicated volunteer, and winner of many industry honors, from a “Patient’s Choice” doctor to a “Top Doc” in sports medicine. And how does Dr. Hocutt enjoy his free time? Golf, softball, water skiing, cycling and swimming – you guessed it – sports!

Coach Image

Written by Dr. John Hocutt

John E. Hocutt, Jr., MD practices family and sports medicine at The Villages Health Colony Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, completed his residency at the Medical Center of Delaware, and is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. After more than three decades of practicing medicine, Dr. Hocutt firmly believes that it’s a team sport. “The patient should be an active participant in his or her care. Clear communication and respect are also critical for excellent patient care.” He is a published author, national speaker, dedicated volunteer, and winner of many industry honors, from a “Patient’s Choice” doctor to a “Top Doc” in sports medicine. And how does Dr. Hocutt enjoy his free time? Golf, softball, water skiing, cycling and swimming – you guessed it – sports!

The Villages, The Villages Health, America’s Healthiest Hometown, and their associated logos are trademarks of Holding Company of The Villages, Inc., and are used with permission.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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