Summer Safety: Sun exposure and skin care
When you think of Summer, skin cancer isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But it should be — skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, most commonly caused by ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.
Of course, you don’t have to hide indoors all summer, but if whether you’re out on the River, splashing in the pool, or going on a beach vacation, it is important to know the risks and how you can prevent skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
Who is at risk for contracting skin cancer?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), anyone can contract skin cancer. Although, there are certain groups who are more at risk, including those with:
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Family history of skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer.
- Exposure to the sun through work and play.
- A history of sunburns, especially early in life.
- A history of indoor tanning.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blonde or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
Ways to reduce the risk
- Use SPF Sunscreens — “SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which deals with the amount of time that you can stay in the sun, without burning,” explained Esthetician Tarrah Bouts. “For example, I am very fair skinned and without a sunscreen, would begin seeing reddened skin within 5 to 7 minutes. If I apply an SPF 30, 30 x 5 equals 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours. Based on this information, I know that i need to apply more sunscreen every 2.5 hours to avoid getting burned.”
- Stay in the Shade — You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun.
- Watch what you wear — Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from UV rays. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunburn isn’t fun, and neither is skin cancer. By following these safety tips and remembering to applying sunscreen, you’ll keep your skin happy and healthy this summer.
For more information about how to stay safe in the sun this summer, you can visit the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/ or the American Cancer Society website, www.cancer.org