Show customers how to avoid UV rays and protect themselves from skin cancer
- July is National UV Safety month, which is an opportunity for independent pharmacies.
- Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting nearly 5 million Americans each year.
- The leading cause of skin cancer is UV exposure from the sun.
- Prescription and OTC medications can make people more sensitive to sun exposure.
- However, skin cancer is highly preventable by reducing UV exposure.
- Pharmacies can help patients protect themselves and can increase sales by counseling patients on the proper use of sunscreen and offering products that protect well.
Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, which is the most common type of cancer in the United States — and skin cancer rates are on the rise. The major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) exposure, often from long sun exposure without enough protection. The good news is that most cases of skin cancer can be prevented.1
Help your patients be sun smart:
- Flag those at extra risk. Counsel patients who are taking prescription medications that increase photosensitivity, from antibiotics to chemotherapy drugs.4 Add signs on OTC products that increase photosensitivity, reminding customers to take extra precautions. Note local conditions that may increase the dangers, such as high altitude, which may affect sun exposure, or people heading to a lake or a soccer tournament, who will need to take extra protection.
- Stock the right sunscreen. CVS made news this year by announcing it would carry only sunscreens of at least SPF 15. However, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends going further by using at least SPF 30.5 Pharmacies can carry a range of products to have the right sunscreen for each customer, including creams, gels and sprays.
- Provide even more protection. In addition to sunscreen and lip balms with SPF protection, consider selling hats with wide brims or shade caps, which look like baseball caps but have extra fabric to protect the ears and neck. Offer sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection, including large framed or wraparound sunglasses, as well as sunglasses for children that are not just decorative, but provide real protection.
- Place visual reminders. On your sunscreen display, encourage customers to check the expiration dates on products they have already purchased — which may be out of date — and remind customers to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Also, educate customers on proper sunscreen usage by including a photo or a visual image of the right amount of sunscreen to use each time, which is about one shot glass full. An adult may need one full tube of sunscreen for a day at the beach.
- Share your expertise. July is National UV Safety Month, so contact local media about being an expert sunscreen resource for them. (See “Become Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert.”) Offer to visit children’s camps or outdoor events to show people how to properly protect themselves. (The American Academy of Dermatology has a video on how to use sunscreen properly.)
Remember to post on social media about sun safety, such as reminding people that they need sunscreen even on a cloudy day. And when customers come in to pick up relief for a sunburn, offer them protection to avoid future burns, too!
1 “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014. LINK
3 Everyone Can Play a Role to Reduce Skin Cancer, CDC. LINK
4 “Sun-Sensitizing Drugs,” WebMD. LINK
5 “CVS Pharmacies Won’t Sell Sunscreens Under SPF 15,” Gina Pace, TODAY, May 19, 2017. LINK