The Importance of Blocking UVA Rays

As the largest organ in the body, skin is the first defense against disease and infection, so it's imperative to keep it healthy, says Karl Gruber, MD, a surgical pathologist. November is National Healthy Skin Month and according to Gruber, it is a good time to remember that people must protect their skin daily and year-round. The best way to do this is to use a sunscreen with high UVA protection.

"Daily, I diagnose skin cancer, including deadly melanoma, in younger and younger patients," says Gruber. "This disease is preventable and using sunscreen with a high UVA protection is key to keeping skin safe and healthy."

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the best way to protect against skin cancer and the damage caused by the sun's rays is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Skin cancer is currently the most prevalent of all types of cancers. More than 1 million new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year alone, and more than 80% of these new cases could be prevented by protection from the sun's rays.

"Most people don't know that the majority of sunscreens sold in the United States protect against sunburn, but provide little or no protection from skin cancer and wrinkles," says Dr. Gruber. "SPF numbers only indicate how much protection you are getting from the sun's UVB rays, which cause sunburn. People need UVA protection, and most sunscreens do not indicate whether they provide any protection from the sun's dangerous and harmful UVA rays."

More in Physiology