Be sunscreen savvy

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the country, with more than 1 million people diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Research shows that an estimated 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

With warm weather here, many backyard and neighborhood pools are opening for the season, and it will be essential to protect your skin with a good sunscreen. But buying sunscreen can seem way too complicated when you are standing in front of an aisle of bottles. Lotion or spray? 15 or 50? What is water-resistant?

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new requirements for over-the-counter sunscreens as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and effectiveness. Part of the new standards prevent manufacturers from claiming that sunscreens are “waterproof” since all sunscreens eventually wash off in water. Instead, sunscreens recommended for water exposure are to be labeled as “water-resistant” (maintaining their SPF after 40 minutes in the water) or “very water-resistant” (maintaining their SPF for 80 minutes in the water).

Some things to remember:

  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun. Apply it generously and thoroughly.
  • Reapply sunscreen when you get out of the water and after being in the water beyond the exposure times listed on the bottle. If you aren’t swimming, remember to reapply every two hours or after sweating a lot.
  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.

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