Fight the Sun!

 

            Along with many other things, June is National Cancer from the Sun Month, so let’s talk about that! Since I was a child, my light skin has been doused in sunscreen anytime I would go to the lake or pool, or be outside on a sunny day for a long period of time. And a lot of the time it would have to be diligently reapplied an hour later. Your parents try to protect your skin from the pains of a sunburn. Nowadays I wear sunscreen not only because I hate sunburns with a passion, but also because I don’t want skin cancer. I even use facial sunscreen on an almost daily basis. What do we really know about it all though?

What is UV?

            According to the American Cancer Society, UV, or ultraviolet radiation, “is a form of electromagnetic radiation” from the sun or other artificial sources like tanning beds. There are three types of UV rays. UVA rays are the weakest form; they damage skin cells, and cause aging, and wrinkles. UVB rays damage the DNA of skin cells, causing sunburn and most skin cancers. Lastly, UVC rays are high energy rays, but luckily, they don’t normally get past our ozone (“Does UV radiation cause cancer?”, n.d.).

The Sun and Skin Cancer

Studies have found spending a lot of time in the sun (especially with a lot of exposed skin), getting sunburns, and living in an area with a lot of sun exposure increase your risk for skin cancers and melanoma, a very serious form of skin cancer. The UV rays can penetrate the skin, eyes, lips and other external organs exposed to the radiation. In addition, UV rays can be found in other places like tanning beds, welding torches, and phototherapy. Skin cancer can come from one simple burn, or decades of exposure, so it’s best to err on the side of caution!

Sunscreen in general is so important. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and measures the ability of the sunscreen to prevent damage to the skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation explains, “If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours.”. Broad-Spectrum indicates protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

 

Prevention

            The Skin Cancer Foundation gives many helpful tips for protecting yourself:

  1. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that protect against UV rays, and protect your lips by wearing Chapstick with SPF in it.
  2. Be extra careful with children, using a good sunscreen, and proper clothing.
  3. Clothing is a great defense mechanism against the sun! Wearing a hat will keep your scalp safe too.
  4. Be in the shade when you can. The UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
  5. Check your skin regularly.
  6. The Skin Cancer Foundation  recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, “with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.”.

Hopefully the next time your step outside, or hit the lakes in hopes of getting a tan, you take the time to apply your sunscreen. It may be tedious, but it will save you trouble in the long run!

Sources:

What is UV radiation? (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation/uv-radiation-what-is-uv.html

Does UV radiation cause cancer? (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation/uv-radiation-does-uv-cause-cancer.html

Skin Cancer Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection