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What You Need to Know about Sunscreen

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Skin Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

It is ingrained in humans to love sunlight. Since mankind's first wanderings from darkened caves, sun worship has been a fundamental ideology that many societies hold even to the present.

Unfortunately, sunlight can wreak havoc on our skin. The old saying, “get a tan, get a wrinkle” only tells part of the story.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate the skin causing tanned skin, hyper-pigmentation, freckles, sunspots, moles or actinic keratoses (rough, scaly patches), all signs of damage. As if it couldn’t get worse, it does: About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas-the most deadly form of skin cancer— are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Writing for the National Institutes of Health, David R. Bickers, M.D., Director Skin Diseases Research Center Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals said once skin damage occurs, it’s likely permanent.

“Data exist to suggest that half of an individual's total lifetime UV ray exposure occurs by 18 years of age. Although various therapies to improve sun-damaged skin have been tried, including chemical peels, alpha-hydroxy acids and others, and the beneficial cosmetic effects of some of these treatments have received wide publicity, there are insufficient data demonstrating sustained improvement, reversibility of tissue pathology, or the preservation of normal skin function by those agents,” he wrote.

Sun protection is essential to prevent damaged skin and skin cancer, but how do you know which sunscreen to use? It has been a confusing matter, but new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules announced this year will make choosing the right one easier. Although the rules don’t go into effect until summer 2012, some manufacturers are likely to comply with the rules immediately so products with new UV labeling standards could hit store shelves soon.

In the meantime, here’s the experts’ sun protection tips:

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EmpowHER Guest

II have a scar on my right cheek from a large mole removed when I was three years old. It was itchy and the bumpy red part bled when scratched. Turns out it was Basal Cell Carcinoma.

October 12, 2012 - 11:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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