Sunscreen and Skin Cancer Prevention

Sunscreen protection- properly using sunscreen Many of us enjoy soaking up the sun in the summer, however, it is important that we do so safely and with discretion to prevent skin cancer.

One of the best ways to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays is to wear sunscreen.  Studies show that using sunscreen regularly reduces the incidence of melanoma (a form of skin cancer) by 50-73%.

Sunscreen works by preventing the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin.   Your sunscreen’s ability to prevent radiation from damaging your skin is measured by its SPF (Sun Protecting Factor). It is highly advised that you use sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher, as this offers better protection.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen which offers protection against UVA and UVB radiation. Too much exposure from either type of radiation has been linked to skin cancer.

Additional recommendations for proper sunscreen use include:

  • Applying sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before sun exposure to ensure the product has enough time to properly bind to the skin
  • Applying sunscreen generously and regularly
  • Checking product instructions for how often  sunscreen should be applied
  • Reapplying sunscreen after swimming or excessive sweating

It is important to keep in mind that protecting your skin from the sun does not only include wearing sunscreen. Remember to wear protective clothing or accessories such as broad-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts and limit the amount of time spent in the sun.

Jamaica Hospital Recognizes National Don’t Fry Day

The Friday before Memorial Day is designated National Don’t Fry Day – a day to raise awareness about sun safety and encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to protect their skin from cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the nation, with almost 5.5 million cases diagnosed in Americans each year – more than breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers combined.  In fact, one out of every five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some time in their lives.

Jamaica Hospital and the American Cancer Society would like to share the following tips to avoid frying in the sun this summer:

  • Seek shade during the peak time of day – the sun is at its strongest between 10:00am – 2:00 pm
  • Dress properly – Wear sun-protective clothing as well as UV blocking sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats
  • Use sunscreen – It is recommended that you apply sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 every 2 hours
  • Avoid tanning devices – These give-off UVA rays just like the sun.

By following these tips, you and your family can enjoy the sun, while protecting yourself from the harm that it can cause

Learn The ABCDE’s of Moles

Skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer in the United States. It can present in all ethnicities and skin tones. Almost all skin cancers are found on skin exposed to sun, ultraviolet light, tanning lights, or sun lamps.

Most forms of skin cancer can be treated successfully when detected early. Unusual growths on the skin such as moles can serve as warning signs; therefore, paying attention to changes and abnormalities is crucial in early detection.

When observing changes in the skin, knowing what is considered ‘normal’ is vital. For example, a normal mole is solid and uniform in color, and can range from tan, brown, dark brown, or flesh colored. They are usually round or oval in shape with well-defined edges, and may be flat or raised.  However, moles that have developed into skin cancer are sometimes irregularly shaped, scaly or have a variation in color.

The ABCDE rule can help you remember what to look for when checking your moles.

A for Asymmetry

If you fold the mole in half, does it look the same on both sides? If it looks the same on both sides, then it is symmetrical. If both sides look different, the mole is asymmetrical and should be monitored.

B for Border

Look at the border of the mole. Normal moles have a smooth edge. Moles of concern may have a blurry or jagged border.

C for Color

Note the original color of the mole. Has it changed by becoming darker, lost some color, or have multiple colors? (Note that some moles tend to darken during pregnancy or while taking birth controls pills.)

D for Diameter

How large is the mole? Moles that are bigger than 1/4 inch in diameter should be shown to your health care provider.

E for Evolving

Has the mole changed in shape, size, or color? If so, alert your primary care provider.



Doctors advise that you seek medical care if:

  • Your mole changes size, especially if it grows very quickly or becomes larger than a pencil eraser (6mm).
  • Your mole changes in color or develops more than one color.
  • Your mole, or the skin near the mole, becomes painful, sore, red, or swollen.
  • Your mole becomes scaly, sheds skin, oozes fluid, or bleeds.
  • Your mole develops irregular borders.
  • Your mole becomes hard or soft, or develops raised areas.

There are several steps you can take to protect your skin against cancer: Avoid the sun during peak hours, wear sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30, reapplying every 2-3 hours) and wear sunglasses and protective clothing when spending long periods of time outdoors. Additionally, it is important to remember that ultraviolet radiation from artificial tanning beds is a known carcinogen. Using them can increase your risk of skin cancers such as melanoma by 59%, and even more with each use.

If you notice changes in your skin that are abnormal, it is important to speak with your doctor right away. Early detection is key when treating skin cancer.

If you have questions or concerns about unusual growths on your skin, you can schedule an appointment with a Family Medicine doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center by calling, 718-206-6942.

Ambika Nath DO, Family Medicine