Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Does expired sunscreen still work?

(ABC 6 News) – May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to check the expiration date on last year’s sunscreen.

Summer is fast approaching and its the time of year when everyone is looking forward to some fun in the sun. However, too much sun can be dangerous. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun damages skin, and children are especially vulnerable because they tend to spend more time outdoors and can burn easily.

Skin damage from the sun increases the risk of developing skin cancer, wrinkles and age spots.

One way to protect skin is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if swimming or perspiring. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including on lips, the tips of ears, and the backs of hands and neck.

Sunscreens are required by the Food and Drug Administration to remain at their original strength for at least three years. This means that leftover sunscreen can be used from one year to the next. Some sunscreens include an expiration date — a date indicating when they’re no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date. For sunscreen that doesn’t have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle. Throw out the bottle when three years have passed since the purchase date.

In addition to sunscreen, avoid sun exposure in the middle of the day when the UV rays are strongest, wear sunglasses that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays — and wear a broad-brimmed hat and other protective clothing.

Exercising and enjoying time outdoors are important for good health and also is doing so safely by staying protected from the sun.