Protecting yourself from skin cancer and sun damage


In 2009, 5,000 people were affected by melanoma, 940 of which died from the skin disease. It's the most common form of /*cancer*/ for those 25-29, and an increasing number of young women are being affected in recent years. Plus, the number of cases is increasing much faster in females 15-19 than males.

"It is definitely on the rise and it's under-recognized and very poorly understood by most people," said Oncologist Dr. David Hoffman, who treats many late stage cases of skin cancer.

He says the most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell, typically caused by UVB radiation. They are typically located just on the skin and don't tend to spread inside the body.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer

"Melanoma is usually caused by UVA radiation and that one does tend to want to spread throughout the body. It's a very aggressive tumor," said Dr. Hoffman.

According to the /*World Health Organization*/, more than 65,000 people die a year from sun exposure, usually linked to skin cancer. But there is good news - melanoma in individuals 10-39 years old is considered highly curable, especially when caught early.

Earlier this week, scientists announced big breakthroughs in the treatment of late stage skin cancer, but they are not cures and doctors agree the best treatment is prevention.

But statistics show 31 percent of Americans never wear sunscreen. Of those that do, 45 percent complain about it getting in their eyes. And 4 out of 10 beachgoers surveyed said they didn't like sand sticking to their skin because of the sunscreen.

Picking out the best sunscreen for you

This summer, the /*Food and Drug Administration*/ is planning to simplify ratings on labels for UVA and UVB protections. But, in the meantime, with everything on the shelves from sprays to lotions and even wipes, it's hard to know what works best or what makes one any different from the other.

Dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch tells her clients there's something out there for everyone.

"What's so exciting about sunscreen options now is just how available and accessible they've really become. At almost every price point we can really find something that meets any given need," she said.

She points out formulations are improving, simplifying which protection to pick for your personal use.

"Right now you can find sprays, gels, wipes, lotions, all sorts of different product applications which really allow you customize the sunscreen experience," said Dr. Hirsch.

If you have oily skin, Dr. Hirsch says a gel could be ideal because it's typically oil-free. Then there's the spray option.

"Someone who is a little bit more athletic who might be working out would do best with a spray-on sunscreen because it will last a little bit longer," she advised.

Lotion wipes or spray-on sunscreen would be ideal for your squirmy little ones.

There is no sunscreen pill yet, but there is a supplement that claims to act as an anti-oxidant to help protect against UV ray damage. However, it should be taken in addition to sunscreen.

No matter what product you pick, Dr. Hirsch says to make sure the label says 'broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection' to allow for the maximum protection from the sun.

Dermatologists say if you don't use enough sunscreen you actually reduce the amount of sun protection. For example, you should use about an ounce to cover your body. But if you use 1/2 an ounce of SPF 15, it'll end up giving you an SPF of 4. To protect just your face and neck, you should use about half a teaspoon's worth.

Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.