Ultraviolent radiation is a major risk factor for developing melanoma, accounting for about two-thirds of diagnosed cases. Although data is mixed on whether sunscreen actually reduces melanoma incidence, the American Academy of Dermatology currently recommends any person spending time outdoors apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF ) of at least 30.

With summer upon us, simply encouraging sunscreen use may not be enough — your patients are probably already aware that they should be using it. But many may not be familiar with appropriate sunscreen application techniques.  A 2002 study in the Archives of Dermatology, revealed that the majority of participants failed to apply enough sunscreen to achieve the recommended SPF.

Teaching your patients about sunscreen application is just as important as making diet and exercise recommendations. Advise patients that an average-sized adult must apply one ounce of sunscreen, a shot-glass sized amount, to achieve the adequate SPF. Those exposed to the sun longer than two hours, or who are participating in activities that involve water immersion or sweating must reapply.

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You might also consider providing free sunscreen samples to your patients, similar to the practice of distributing free condoms to encourage safer sex and reduce STD risk. This summer, add sunscreen application tips to your prevention education bundle and do your part to help decrease melanoma incidence.

Leigh Montejo, MSN, FNP-BC, provides health care to underserved populations at the Metropolitan Community Health Service’s Agape Clinic in Washington, North Carolina.


  1. Neale R et al. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(10):1319-1325.