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Does Sunscreen Prevent Cancer?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular sunscreen use can reduce your risk of certain cancers by as much as 40 or even 50%. To be effective, sunscreen should be worn daily, reapplied regularly (about every 30 – 90 minutes), and should have an SPF of at least 15. For those who spend time in direct sunlight, daily use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended. Wearing sunscreen every day can also help prevent sun-related effects of premature aging, such as wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (dark spots), and sagging skin.

With summer fast approaching, there’s no better time to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of sunscreen for preventing cancer, as well as what to do if you have received a cancer misdiagnosis or otherwise suffered due to medical malpractice.

What Types of Cancer Are Associated with Sun Exposure?

Exposure to a specific type of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, known as UVB radiation, is associated with several different types of skin cancer. This exposure occurs any time a person is in direct or indirect sunlight. It can also occur when someone uses a tanning bed or another similar device that utilizes UV radiation. Currently, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, especially among young to middle-aged adults.

Cumulative sun exposure has been positively linked to the following types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Together, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma (often referred to as “non-melanoma skin cancer”) make up the vast majority of skin cancer cases in the U.S. With early detection and treatment, these forms of cancer are typically highly curable. Melanoma, on the other hand, is a much more serious and aggressive form of skin cancer that frequently spreads throughout the body, including to other organs.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

Sunscreen lowers your risk of skin cancer in several ways. Depending on the type of sunscreen used, as well as the ingredients in a specific product, sunscreen may work by physically blocking UV rays from reaching the skin. Other types of sunscreens contain chemical components that reflect or scatter sunlight, preventing it from reaching and being absorbed by the skin. Some sunscreens even contain organic chemicals (such as oxybenzone) that absorb UV rays, causing the sunscreen to release heat as it gradually breaks down.

The less UVB and UVA radiation that reaches the skin, the lower the risk of skin cancer and other harmful and/or undesirable effects of sun exposure. Along with wearing sunscreen every single day—even in the winter and on cloudy days—you can lower your risk by staying inside or in the shade and wearing long sleeves, pants, hats with large brims, sunglasses, and other protective clothing.

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. The number associated with a sunscreen’s SPF refers to the degree to which that sunscreen blocks UVB rays. UVB is the type of radiation that causes sunburns and various types of skin cancer.

Generally speaking, the higher the SPF rating, the better the protection. Although many people believe that the SPF number refers to the amount of time you can be out in the sun and still be protected, this is not actually the case. In fact, the number is calculated based on the number of seconds it takes for skin to redden due to sun exposure when protected by the sunscreen divided by the number of seconds it takes for a sunburn to develop when the skin is not protected.

In general, sunscreens with an SPF of 15 protect the skin from about 93% of harmful UVB rays, whereas those with an SPF of 30 block about 97% of UVB rays. Studies have found that sunscreens with an SPF above 50 are not more effective at protecting against UVB rays than those with an SPF of 50, and no sunscreen can block 100% of UVB or UVA rays.

Skin Cancer & Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent skin cancer. Although using sunscreen daily and limiting time spent in the sun can greatly reduce your risk, you may still develop cancer due to UV exposure. Sadly, although it is one of the most common forms of cancer, doctors do not always correctly or promptly diagnose skin cancer, especially in younger patients. Medical professionals may fail to recognize the signs or be bias by a patient’s age.

In any case, failure to detect cancer and begin treatment early on can have devastating and potentially deadly effects. Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis of skin cancer also constitutes medical malpractice in many cases. If you believe that you may be a victim of substandard medical care, or if you believe your loved one passed away due to a doctor’s failure to properly and/or promptly diagnose skin cancer, reach out to our team at Simonson Goodman Platzer PC.

Our New York medical malpractice attorneys can answer your questions and provide the caring legal support and guidance you need. We offer free initial consultations and do not collect any attorney fees unless/until we recover a settlement or verdict for you.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a complimentary case evaluation.