Sun Safety

Sun Safety

By Carrie Dunlea

As the days grow longer and warmer between May and September, many individuals are eager to get some sun and spend their weekends outdoors. However, increased sun exposure during these months can elevate the risk of skin cancer. Understanding the link between sun exposure and skin cancer is crucial for safeguarding your health.

Sun and skin cancer risk

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a significant risk factor for skin cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) identifies UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds as the primary cause of skin cancer. The AIM at Melanoma Foundation emphasizes that UV radiation is the main risk factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

 Does past exposure affect my risk today?

Cumulative sun exposure and episodes of severe sunburns increase the risk of developing melanoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation highlights that UV rays not only damage the skin but can also alter tumor-suppressing genes, reducing the skin’s ability to repair itself and increasing the likelihood of cancer progression. A single blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can more than double a person’s risk of developing melanoma later in life. Additionally, experiencing five or more sunburns doubles this risk. The damage from sunburn is cumulative, meaning that repeated exposure increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer.

Is a tan detrimental to overall health?

The tan that many people seek in late spring and summer is harmful to their overall health. AIM at Melanoma explains that a tan develops as the skin’s defense mechanism against UV rays, producing pigment to protect itself. The darker the tan, the more damage the skin has sustained from UV exposure. Each time the skin tans, the risk of developing skin cancer increases.

Sun protection tips:

Spring and summer weather can make it tempting to spend more time outdoors, but it’s essential to protect your skin from overexposure to the sun. Here are some tips on sun protection and choosing the right sunscreen:

• Use Broad-Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. These types of sunscreens help prevent skin damage, reduce skin cancer risk and give immediate protection without harsh chemicals.

• SPF Matters: Select a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for adequate protection. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while higher SPFs offer slightly more protection.

• Water-Resistant Formulas: If you plan to swim or sweat, opt for a water-resistant sunscreen to ensure lasting protection.

• Reapply Regularly: Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating, to maintain effective protection.

• Seek Shade: Whenever possible, stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.

• Wear Protective Clothing: Long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses can provide additional protection against UV radiation.

• Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds emit UV radiation that can increase the risk of skin cancer. It’s best to avoid them altogether.

• Protect Children: Children’s skin is more sensitive to UV damage, so ensure they are well-protected with sunscreen, clothing and shade.

By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the outdoors while minimizing your risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Always remember that protection and prevention are key to maintaining healthy skin.