Many people have told us to wear sunscreen, but is it really going to help prevent various skin cancers? The short answer is no.
The harmful radiation from the sun is divided into two parts UVA and UVB. UVA has shown in research to cause skin cancers, and UVB is mostly responsible for skin burns. Sunscreens do a great job blocking UVB but not UVA. Some of the newer ones do a better job of blocking UVA but the majority of the products on the market for the last 30 years have been UVB blocking only. With the UVB being blocked the body does not produce melanin to darken the skin, (chemical that tans the skin) and help increase its natural protection from UVA and UVB. With consistent sunscreen use there will be no tan and no burn, but little to zero protection form UVA.
This means the claim that sunscreen can prevent cancer (especially the scary kind) are fare fetched. There are some newer sunscreens that block against UVA and UVB but they still do not block all of UVA. My take on all of this is sunscreen is not as great as the manufacturers want you to think. I use sunscreen still due to my ability to burn, not tan, but I do keep in mind that the sunscreen is not blocking everything.
I am going to share with you my ideal use and please do not take this as a clinical gem but purely how I utilize the product. Please keep in mind your skin type, time of exposure etc when making you own decisions about sunscreen. When the summer starts and I am very white I will use a SPF 15, re applying as the day goes on. This will give me protection so I do not burn, but will also allow tanning. As the summer goes on I will reduce down to SPF 8, that way I do get more of a tan and use my bodies natural defense against UVA and UVB which I believe to be the best. I will have to use the SPF 8 most of the summer if I go out for longer then an hour due to my Scottish heritage, but it allows ample vitamin D production and natural protection. It also lets me know when I have too much sun and its time to cover up or get some shade.
Sunscreen is not the all mighty skin cancer blocker, so use it but know it does not make you invincible against the harmful sun. The best protection is limit your sun exposure and get yearly skin check ups with a trained medical professional who can do a skin check for you.
Here is a link to some of the newer and top rated UVA and UVB sunscreens out on the market now: http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/news/20110524/9-sunscreens-get-top-ratings-by-consumer-reports