John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The best prevention is to avoid the sun. This is often not practical or desired.
Avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sunglasses
with appropriate UV protection.
Sunscreens and sun protection
Use sunblock. Pay attention to the sun protection factor (SPF) and whether or not PABA is in the product. Some people's skin is sensitive to PABA. PABA should be avoided in children younger than 6 months because it can cause skin irritation. Because of the tendency to produce irritation, most sunscreens no longer contain this chemical.
The higher the SPF number, the more protection the sun-blocking agent may have. SPF is actually a ratio of the time it takes to produce a skin reaction on protected and unprotected skin. Thus, a 30 SPF
sunscreen would in theory allow
a person to be exposed 30 times longer than with no sunscreen. However, this is usually not true in practice
because the amount of sun exposure depends upon a number of factors
including the length of exposure, time of day, geographic location, and
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a "broad-spectrum" (UVA and UVB) waterproof sunscreen of at least SPF 30 be used year-round.
As of 2012 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the industry to change labels to include protective potential against both UVA and UVB radiation. UVA radiation (previously not included in labeling) is responsible for a significant portion of sun damage. Manufacturers
are no longer permitted to claim sunscreens are
"waterproof" or "sweatproof" or identify their products as "sunblocks." Water resistant sunscreen claims must have information in regard to how much time a person can expect to have the declared SPF level of protection while sweating or swimming.
People seldom apply enough sunscreen and rarely reapply it. Sunscreen should be applied in generous amounts in layers and reapplied after being exposed.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least a shot glass worth of sunscreen and reapplying every 2 hours.
Use lip balm with SPF 30. Sweating and swimming degrade the effectiveness of sunscreen.
Not all sunscreens are water resistant, and even those that are still need to be reapplied regularly.
Certain drugs can sensitize the skin to radiation injury. Avoid the sun
if taking these drugs. A health care professional or pharmacist can further advise you about your medications and sun sensitivity.
Most likely to cause sun sensitivity are
antibiotics, antipsoriatics (prescribed for skin conditions), and
The herbal drug, St. John's wort, is also thought to make
a person more vulnerable to sunburn.
Mind-altering drugs (including alcohol) can diminish
a person's awareness of getting sunburned and should be avoided.
sequential exposure times can lead to skin pigment changes, which most of us
call tanning. This can lead to increased sun tolerance but can also lead to
long-term problems such as skin cancer. Getting a tan is often a primary reason people go out in the sun with maximum skin exposed in the first place.
Sunburn is most common in children and younger adults.
Avoid tanning beds entirely. Users of indoor tanners are more likely to develop melanoma than non-users. Those who use indoor tanners are also 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.