The statistics are sobering. Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US and over 90% are caused by the sun. What may surprise some people is that you don’t have to be actively sunbathing to get a damaging dose of the sun. Sun protection is an important health habit for everyone and is key to preventing skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.
With our fast-paced lifestyles, it’s easy to grab whatever sunscreen is on the shelf and head outdoors or worse, forget the sunscreen altogether. But with skin cancer on the rise, there are important facts to consider.
UVA vs UVB
One distinction that sometimes confuses people is the difference between the sun’s ultraviolet rays. UVA and UVB simply refer to the different wave lengths. The important thing to know is that the UVA rays cause the skin to take on a darker shade, whereas UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns. Both types of UV rays play a part in skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers and both require a sun protection regimen that includes the correct and routine use of sunscreen.
Choosing a Sunscreen
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, refers to how long it will take UVB rays to burn your skin compared to not wearing anything at all. For example, wearing SPF 15 will take 15 times longer to redden your skin than if you were not wearing any protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using SPF of 15 or higher. That said, SPF gives your 93% protection against UVB rays and SPF 30 gives you 97% protection.
Source: Badger Balm http://www.badgerbalm.com/
It’s also important to choose a sunscreen with UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “you may see the phrases multi spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection on sunscreen labels, and these all indicate that some UVA protection is provided.”1
Some people do not burn as quickly as others, and therefore believe they don’t need sunscreen, but the truth is, all skin types are vulnerable to sun exposure. While they may not need the SPF to prevent burns, disregarding sunscreen all together will expose them to unhealthy doses of radiation.
Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to going outdoors. This allows it to absorb in the skin for better protection and should be reapplied every 2 hours. With each application, you should use approximately 1 ounce of sunscreen.
Pass the SPF 100...or Not?
No worries. Just lather on the SPF 100 and you’re good to go, right? Dr. Steven Q. Wang, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center suggests there is more to consider. “By preventing sunburn, sunscreens with very high SPFs can create a false sense of security, prompting consumers to stay out in the sun longer. Sun damage (for example, UVA damage) can take place without skin-reddening.”
In addition to sunscreen, sun protection includes paying attention to our overall exposure, the parts of our bodies that are most vulnerable and taking responsibility for children’s skin health. Skin cancers and damaged skin are most common on the head area: face, ears, nose and neck. Large umbrellas, clothing, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, shade and covered outdoor structures are good ways to protect yourself and your family.
Sun protection isn’t just for sunny days at the beach. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “up to 40 percent of the sun's ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day” so even if the weather isn’t great, don’t forget your sun protection regimen. UVA can even penetrate glass so protecting yourself in your car is crucial, especially on long or frequent excursions.
Sun protection should be taught at an early age and become part of everyone’s daily habit, just like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Your skin will stay healthier and look better over your lifetime if these simple guidelines are followed.
On Tuesday August 4, MMA GROW is holding a women’s health event on skincare, with guest speaker Dr. Kristen Richards. Register now for your spot.
Source:1Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org/