The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention urges the public to use sunscreen as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent skin cancer. Ingredients used in sunscreens are generally considered safe and effective, based on their record of use established over many years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others agree that the weight of the available scientific evidence shows that the benefits of sunscreens far outweigh the risks and that sunscreens are an important part of being safe in the sun.

Sunscreen labels should contain clear and accurate information that sunscreen needs to be used and applied properly in order to be effective. Studies continue to show many people use sunscreens to stay in the sun longer, thereby increasing their exposure to UV radiation, and the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. Consequently, it is very important to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating and to be certain to apply a generous amount.[1]

The bottom line: sunscreens play a role in reducing skin cancer risk and prevent photoaging, but they are not the only or even the most important factor. Seeking shade, covering up using sun-protective clothing, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are equally if not more important behaviors to practice. We also need better regulation of sunscreens, and we acknowledge that although the science to date supports their safety, questions persist, which are currently being addressed by the FDA.

Quick facts:

  • One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size.
  • Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen.