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Daily use of sunscreen protects for a lifetime

Source: Author: Date:2011-8-31

Whew, it's hot out there! Even so, most of us still like to take advantage of Kansas' many lakes and neighborhood pools. While basking in the summer sun can be fun and a valuable source of Vitamin D, it's important to protect yourself from its damaging rays.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 2 million people diagnosed each year. It is important to protect yourself throughout your life by wearing daily sunscreen.
Sunscreens help shield you from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays in two ways. Some work by scattering the light and reflecting it away from your body while others absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin.
However, although most of us know that it's the UVB rays that cause sunburn, we tend to forget about UVA rays, which penetrate deeply into the skin and cause wrinkles, pigment changes and alter cellular structure, leading to certain types of skin cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90 percent of aging-associated skin changes are caused by lifetime exposure to UVA rays. Given these facts, it's important to pick a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection for both UVA and UVB rays.
A sunscreen's sun protection factor, or SPF, rates how effective it is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays, but not its effectiveness against UVA rays. Contrary to what you might think, SPF 30 is not twice as strong as SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters 97 percent — only a slight improvement.
When looking for a sunscreen for UVB protection, I recommend looking for a sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher. At this level, you are blocking virtually all UVB rays.
Because there is no rating system for how well a sunscreen is blocking UVA rays, you also need to pay attention to the ingredients. Some key ingredients for blocking UVA rays are ecamsule, avobenzone (also known Helioplex), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and Mexoryl.