Pharmacist Counseling Points for Skin Cancer Prevention

MARCH 16, 2015
Pharmacists can play an important role in skin cancer prevention counseling.

For instance, pharmacists should recommend that patients use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.1 Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours, as well as after swimming and sweating.

Because the sun’s rays are at their strongest between 10 am and 2 pm, it is important to seek shade during this time. Parents should keep their babies in shaded areas out of direct sunlight, as sunscreen cannot be used in infants aged younger than 6 months due to the risk of adverse effects from the absorption of chemicals.2,3
Individuals using spray sunscreens should avoid open flames, including grills, as many of these products contain alcohol, which is flammable.4 The FDA has received several reports of individuals experiencing burns when standing near a flame source.4 Therefore, sunscreen products that contain alcohol or state that they are flammable should be avoided.
Pharmacists can counsel patients to avoid tanning, as this raises the risk of melanoma by 59%.5  The FDA has strengthened its regulation of sunlamp products, requiring a black box warning that states they are contraindicated for use in individuals under the age of 18. Children and teenagers are at an increased risk of developing melanoma from indoor tanning, as UV radiation exposure has a cumulative effect over time.5
The American Academy of Dermatology maintains an educational library of resources, such as the body mole map, to assist patients in skin cancer self-examination through the ABCDEs (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving) of melanoma.6
Pharmacists can serve as a great resource for sun safety counseling, including sunscreen product education and tools for patients. Additionally, pharmacists can refer patients to dermatologists through an interdisciplinary approach to melanoma prevention and detection.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. How do I prevent skin cancer? Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Sun safety: information for parents about sunburn and sunscreen. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  3. FDA. Should you put sunscreen on infants? Not usually. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  4. FDA. Use sunscreen spray? Avoid open flame. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  5. FDA. Indoor tanning raises risk of melanoma. FDA strengthens warnings for sunlamp products. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  6. American Academy of Dermatology. How do I check my skin? Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2