Not all sunscreens are created equal, Besser said. Check the ingredients list on your next tube for these important ingredients.
Paba derivatives, salicylates and/or cinnamates (octylethoxycinnamate and cinoxate) to protect against UVB absorption.
Benzophenones, such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone, to protect against shorter-wavelength UVA rays.
Avobenzone (parsol 1789), ecamsule (mexoryl) titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to protect against the rest of the UVA spectrum. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physically block the UVA rays. The other ingredients chemically stop UVA rays from penetrating the skin.
Those who do get a skin cancer diagnosis will understandably be concerned, but there are several treatment options available.
Mohs surgery involves removing the cancer and examining it immediately to confirm that all the malignant tissue has been removed.
Other treatments include excision, radiation and a skin cream, Besser said.
Excision involves cutting out the tumor, and it usually requires stitches to close the wound, he said. Smaller cancerous spot on the skin are usually frozen – or burned with electricity – in order to kill the cells.
Radiation uses x-rays or other type of radiation to kill cancer cells. This kind of treatment is used if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes, or for squamous cell cancers that cannot be treated with surgery, he added.
A newer kind of treatment involves the application of a topical skin cream. That's used to treat superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, Besser noted.
It's critical that people control their exposure to the sun and its cancer-causing UV rays. Sunscreen is an essential component of prevention.
Sunscreens that are available in the United States contain a number of chemicals that offer protection against the ultraviolet B rays (UVB) of the sun, which cause sunburn, and the deeper-penetrating ultraviolent A rays, which wrinkle and age the skin.
The most effective sunscreens contain three main types of ingredients which act in concert to block the absorption of the sun's harmful rays.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people wear sunscreen every day, and that the sunscreen they use have an SPF (or sun protection factor) of at least 30. The Skin Cancer Foundation has said that most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher will do an excellent job of protecting against UVA rays, he noted.
Besser said SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays that hit the skin, and that SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of those rays. SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of those rays. While those percentages may not matter much to people whose skin cancer risk is average, it does matter to people whose skin is especially light-sensitive or who have a history of skin cancer, he said.
Experts advise that people apply sunscreen lotions and creams liberally. People should use about an ounce to get the protection promised on the label, he said. Apply sunscreen every half-hour before going out into the sun, and re-apply it every two hours, or more frequently, if necessary.
If you or someone you know is battling skin cancer, know that you're not fighting alone. Below are several resources to help prevent, detect and deal with this disease.