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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best type of sunscreen to use?
The two things to look for when choosing a sunscreen are what kinds of rays it protects against and what its sun protection factor (SPF) value is. Sunscreens that are labelled “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and experts recommend sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Why should I start protecting my skin now if I’ve already accumulated years of sun damage?
The more sun damage your skin has received, the higher your risk for developing skin cancer. It’s never too late to start protecting your skin from further damage. It’s also possible to reverse some of the damage that’s already been done. Treatments that can reduce or reverse sun damage include topical retinoids, topical exfoliants, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, photodynamic therapy, and topical chemotherapies.

Isn’t sunscreen bad for the environment?
It’s true that sunscreens containing certain ingredients, such as oxybenzone, can cause damage to coral reefs. If you plan on spending time at the beach and swimming in the ocean, you may want to look for a sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone (there are plenty out there -- just be diligent about looking at the labels!).

Do I need to wear sunscreen even if it’s cloudy?
Ultraviolet rays from the sun still penetrate cloud cover, so wearing sunscreen on cloudy days is still recommended.

If my cosmetics contain sunscreen, do I still need to apply regular sunscreen?
Cosmetics that contain sunscreen usually have a low SPF (15-20). These can be fine for short periods in the sunshine, but if you plan on spending any significant amount of time in the sun, it’s important to use a separate sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours. Some mineral sunscreens with SPF 30 and 45 come in the form of a powder with a brush like a make-up brush. These are ideal for reapplication over the top of make-up.

I tan easily and never burn. Do I still need to use sunscreen?
Yes! While a burn is a sign of more severe damage, tanned skin is damaged skin. So if you are tanning, your skin is being damaged by UV radiation. Even people who tan easily are at risk of skin cancer and should do what they can to protect their skin from the sun, including using sunscreen.

What kind of providers are involved in diagnosing and treating skin cancer?

  • Primary care provider: A physician who conducts screening exams and refers patients with suspicious lesions to a dermatologist. In some cases, a primary care provider may biopsy a lesion.
  • Dermatologist: An MD or DO who has attended an accredited training program and is board certified in Dermatology (the treatment of diseases of the skin, hair, and nails). Dermatologists are the primary doctors who diagnose and treat skin cancer. You can check to see if your Dermatologist is board certified on the American Academy of Dermatology website:
  • Mohs surgeon: A Dermatologist who does a fellowship in Mohs surgery.
  • Oncologist: An MD or DO specially trained in the treatment of cancer. Anything above stage II and even some advanced stage II disease warrants referral to an oncologist. Dermatologists will treat cancers unless they involve more than a wide local excision or other modalities.
  • Surgical oncologist: An oncologist who can also perform wide local and/or complicated excisions as well as lymph node dissections in the OR.