There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. Skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. And the incidences of skin cancer continue to grow. Summer is in full swing which means more time spent out in the sun. Although some sun is good for you, we also know that too much time in the sun can cause damage to your skin and can cause cancer.
With summer also comes a desire among many people to have a golden tan even though there is an overwhelming number of messages that tell us to avoid the sun. But it is important to understand that there is not a safe way to tan–each time you tan, it causes damage to your skin. Continual damage to your skin speeds up the aging of your skin and increases your risk of developing all types of skin cancers.
Although skin cancer is extremely common, it is also very preventable if the correct steps are taken to reduce your exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Your best protection is to avoid the sun if you can. If you will be spending a significant amount of time outside, seek shade as much as possible. It is also important to wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants. Finally, it is especially important to wear sunscreen on all your exposed areas of skin.
To get the most protection from your sunscreen there are guidelines that every sun seeker should follower. It is recommended that sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 should be used for all skin types. An SPF of 30 will protect you from about 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Contrary to what many believe, a higher SPF does not mean better protection. Higher SPFs provide a small margin of higher protection with SPF 50 blocking about 98 percent of the sun’s rays. It is also important to look for sunscreens that have “broad spectrum protection.” Broad spectrum sunscreens protect your skin against UVA rays that causes your skin to age and UVB rays which cause your skin to burn.
The only thing more important than the SPF of your sunscreen is how you apply it to your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you apply an ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. However, this amount will vary depending on the size of the person. Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. It should then be reapplied every two hours you are outdoors to maintain protection. Don’t forget to reapply even if it is cloudy. Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate your skin on cloudy days, which can cause more damage that you realize. If your outdoor activities include swimming or a lot of sweating you may need to reapply more often and should choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a label that indicates that the SPF protection will last 40 or 80 minutes. Lastly, don’t forget your lips. Use a lip balm that includes SPF protection on days you plan to spend outdoors.
Let us all have a safe and healthy summer and remember to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Choose sunscreen for healthy skin now and overall health later in life.