Your closet may hold your best skin defense

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Rachel Beavin

If you trust sunscreen as your first line of defense, you may not be doing enough to prevent skin cancer. That's according to a new study published recently in the Lancet Medical Journal.

With SPF 50 and even 60 plus, many consumers think they're covered when it comes to protecting themselves against a painful sunburn or eventual skin cancer. New research says they're wrong.

Dermatologist, Jeffrey Moore, MD, says it takes a lot more than just some lotion, "We're fooling ourselves if we think something in a bottle is going to protect us from the atomic bomb in the sky."

Swiss researchers found sunscreen protects against basal and squamous cell carcinomas, but it hasn't conclusively been shown to protect against the deadliest type of cancer, melanoma.

Dr. Moore says there are others ways to protect yourself, "I always put sunscreen as the last thing on the list that we do. It's to help protect skin that's otherwise unprotected. So we want to start with protecting the skin in ways that we can."

That means staying out of direct sunlight, especially during the intense heat of the middle of the day.

It's not the coolest option, but wearing protective clothing goes a long way too. Tightly woven, thick garments like denim actually work better than lighter fabrics.

Dry clothes work better than wet and clothing that you've worn a couple times, that you've washed, works better than new clothing.

Dr. Moore says clothing is your best line fo defense, "Wear as much clothing as you can. Clothing is going to be a better sunscreen than sunscreen itself."

Clothes that have been washed offer better sun protection than new clothes because many detergents contain a brightening agent that has been shown to protect against ultraviolet rays. But there is too much of a good thing, repeated washings over many years will make clothes thinner and less effective.

Not to say sunscreen doesn't have some benefit. Dr. Moore says you should put on a lot of it a half hour before you go outside and reapply often.

Even if you successfully avoid getting a sunburn, you can still be at risk for skin cancer.