As we head into summer, sun safety and skin cancer awareness should be a top priority. The sun is the biggest cause of premature aging, and is of course the leading cause of skin cancer. While much of our skin’s attributes are genetic, we each have control over our potential for skin cancer by taking sun safety precautions.
In the U.S., skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and effects over 65,000 people yearly. Over 9,000 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, lack of skin cancer awareness, misinformation and poor sun safety habits lead to these unnecessary fatalities. Just 15 minutes of UV exposure can damage skin and any color change or tan on your skin is a negative reaction to the sun.
About UV Rays
For those of us who need a refresher, there are two types of sun rays that are harmful to skin: UVA and UVB. You need sun protection from both because they can both damage cellular DNA, which may result in cancer. Ultraviolet rays are electromagnetic wavelengths from the sun. UVA rays are longer and more prevalent on Earth but they are less intense that UVB rays. Nonetheless, UVA rays are responsible for most photoaging of skin. UVB rays are shorter but stronger and cause sunburns and skin cancer. UVA rays are consistently present throughout the year and at any time of day while UVB rays are most intense during the peek sun hours of the late morning through mid-afternoon.
Protecting your skin from the sun is a vital health responsibility. Like brushing your teeth and eating a balanced diet, sun safety should be part of your personal healthcare routine. Here are the 4 key things to remember about sun protection:
- Always wear sunscreen. Why take any chances with your beautiful skin? Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 that has broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Reapply often if you are out in the sun all day.
- Wear protective clothing. Keep the sun off your skin by covering up. This includes UV protective shirts, hats and sunglasses. Protective clothing is especially important for people with very fair skin and children. Be sure to buy hats that cover your face and neck.
- Seek shade. Find a covered area, awning or umbrella to avoid over-exposure to the sun. If you are spending the entire day at the beach, bring along a tent to give everyone some much-needed relief from the sun.
- Avoid peek sun hours. Everyone wants to have fun in the sun but be strategic about when you’re outdoors. Spend time outside in the early morning or later afternoon to avoid peek sun hours.
This summer, practice sun safety and be informed about skin cancer awareness. If you do get burnt or notice changes to your skin, seek guidance from a dermatologist. Early detection of skin cancer is the best way to treat it quickly without major health concerns.
Enjoy your summer and stay safe!