UV rays' risk not worth the perceived tan-line reward

Q&A with Dr. Blanco

Discover Dr. Gabriela M. Blanco's thoughts about the new sunscreen labeling guidelines in our HealthTalks blog.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, whether from sunlight or artificial sources such as tanning beds, is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.

Nonetheless, skin cancer’s incidence rates continue to rise, especially among young women in their 20s and 30s, says Dr. Gabriela Blanco, a dermatologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. And the incidence of melanoma – the most lethal form among people 15 to 29 years old – continues to rise.

A recent study showed that in the past four decades the incidence rate of melanomas has grown an alarming 800 percent for women and 400 percent for men. Risk factors include a family history of melanoma, fair skin, light colored eyes and hair, and a high number of moles on the body.

“When outside, people do not need to use different sunscreens,” Dr. Blanco says. “Scientific data has demonstrated that products with an SPF of 15 or higher reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, in addition to helping prevent sunburn.”

For sun protection, Dr. Blanco recommends the following:

  • Apply sunscreen daily to all exposed skin using a product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Physical blockers, containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, provide the broadest coverage. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds. Ultraviolet light causes skin cancer and wrinkling. Use a sunless self-tanning product instead.
  • Wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and wide-brim hats. Bathing suits and clothing with Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) also can enhance protection against the sun.
  • Seek shade and remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/dermatology to learn more about clinical services in dermatology at UT Southwestern.

Media Contact: Janice Jarvis