Worker Health and Wellness

Survey asks: Are you using sunscreen correctly?

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woman putting on sunscreen

Photo: PeopleImages/iStockphoto

Schaumburg, IL – Many people don’t understand the information on sunscreen labels or use the product correctly, potentially raising their risk for skin cancer, according to the results of a survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology.

More than 1,000 people filled out the academy’s online survey about sunscreen. The results: 68 percent of respondents incorrectly believe sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 provides double the protection of an SPF 15 sunscreen, and 55 percent believe a higher-SPF sunscreen protects longer than a lower-SPF sunscreen.

A sunscreen with a higher SPF can block “slightly more” rays than a lower-SPF sunscreen, but users must still reapply the product, AAD president and dermatologist Abel Torres said in a press release. The association also pointed to a recent study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that suggests people who rely only on sunscreen for sun protection may not be applying enough.

For that study, researchers studied 758 people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer and 34,161 people with no history of cancer. They found that people with non-melanoma skin cancer still developed sunburns as frequently as those without the disease even though cancer patients were more likely to put on sunscreen, move to shade and don protective clothing (pants, long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses). The protective clothing and shaded areas lowered the risk of sunburn – using sunscreen did not, researchers concluded. AAD recommends using at least 1 ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) per application.

“While it makes sense that people with a history of skin cancer were more likely to practice sun protection, we were surprised to see that their methods were not always effective,” study co-author and dermatologist Anna L. Chien said in the release. “Our results reinforce the importance of everyone using multiple types of sun protection.”

The study was published online May 16 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The AAD suggests sun seekers apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin 15 minutes before sun exposure. The academy offers additional information on preventing and recognizing skin cancer at SpotSkinCancer.org.

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