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Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer

  1. SPF means sun protection factor. The number following SPF is the multiplier of the time it ordinarily takes the skin to burn. For example, if it takes 20 minutes for you to get that initial redness, an SPF 2 will protect you for 40 minutes. Use at least an SPF of 15 or higher. SPF 15 blocks 95% of the sun's most harmful wavelengths. An SPF 30 sunscreen is significantly superior to an SPF 15 at preventing damage to the skin and should be used on infants and children.
  2. Up to 80% of ultraviolet radiation penetrates cloud cover, and up to 50% reaches swimmers in water. Water-resistant and waterproof sunscreens resist water for 40 to 80 minutes.
  3. Apply sunscreen to all areas including the eyelids, ear lobes, mouth and on your head if you are bald or thinning. Apply one ounce for whole-body coverage.
  4. Sunscreen is only part of a complete sun protection program. Make sure you wear a shirt. Often, men do not wear shirts and women wear halter tops. A white T-shirt has an SPF of 5 to 9. Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts. Wear a hat with at least a 4 inch wide brim. Seek the shade whenever possible.
  5. One million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year. The incidence of melanoma has climbed 4% each year since 1973, and the incidences of basal and squamous cell carcinoma increased 50% between 1980 and 1990. Melanoma strikes about 40,00 American each year. 9,500 people die each year from skin cancer.
  6. Unless a sunscreen smells foul, it will last up to several years. Just remember to shake the bottle because the active ingredients may settle to the bottom.