Many Who Have Had Skin Cancer Still Skip Sunscreen

Photo of author

( — June 16, 2016) — Now that the rainstorms of spring are gone and the sunshine of summer has arrived, discussion about one of the hottest health concerns is back: the use of sunscreen.

Everyone knows when you don’t wear sunscreen, it significantly increases your risk for developing skin cancer. Somehow, people still manage to convince themselves they’re the exception. Surprisingly, even those who have been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past are sometimes relaxed with their sunscreen use, according to a recent study.

The study did show that those who have had skin cancer are, in fact, more likely to wear sunscreen when they go outdoors, but only by a small margin. It’s a little disturbing that this percentage is so low. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, looked at the skin-protection habits of more than 750 people who had been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers in the past. They compared the results to more than 34,000 people who had never had skin cancer.

Their findings showed that 54 percent of those who’d had skin cancer in the past wore sunscreen when they went outside. When it came to those who had never had skin cancer before, 33 percent said they wore sunscreen on a regular basis. That’s a difference of just 21 percent.

It’s overwhelmingly positive that more than half of people who have had their lives threatened in the past are taking steps to prevent it from happening again, but the numbers should be much higher. Especially since studies show sunscreen is tied to a significant reduction in skin cancer.

A recent study from Ohio State University focused on the effectiveness of sunscreen on mice. The findings showed that all sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher reduced the risk of the rodents developing melanoma by 80 percent.

“Now, for the first time, we have a mechanism to say, ‘yes, this sunscreen can protect against melanoma,’” lead researcher Christian Burd reported.  “And we hope that we can now use that information to develop better, smarter sunscreens.”

Researchers of both studies concluded that physicians and news reporters should strongly emphasize sunburn prevention and wearing sunscreen when outdoors.

Here are some tips for making sunscreen a routine habit:

Choose the Right Sunscreen

A lot of people avoid sunscreen because they dislike the greasy consistency, don’t like the smell, or it’s difficult to apply. The good news is there are multiple kinds of sunscreen to choose from, and sunscreen is often built into your everyday beauty products.

For example, many face moisturizers and lotions incorporate sunscreen into their formulas – allowing you to enjoy the benefits of two products in one (minus the greasy feel of traditional sunscreen formulas). With so many different formulas to choose from, the bottom line in product selection is this:  choose a sunscreen that you like, and you’ll have a much easier time wearing it every day.

Carry a Small Bottle with You Always

The study also revealed that the majority of people who get sunburns don’t get them when they’ve dedicated a day in the sun. Instead, they occur when they’re out for a walk or participate in an activity in which they didn’t anticipate spending much time in the sun. Carrying a small bottle with you offers protection, even if you weren’t expecting to go outside that day.

Apply Regularly

Most sunscreen applications are only good for a few hours. If you’re swimming or sweating, an application is only good for about 90 minutes. Putting on sunscreen just one time isn’t enough if you’re going to spend all day in the sun.

Overall, the best way to avoid skin cancer is to wear protection wherever you go and reapply every couple hours. So, lather up!