Spring is right around the corner and now that we are getting that extra hour of sunshine, it’s the perfect time to talk about the importance of protecting your skin from the sun. Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US and is also the most preventable form of this disease. North Carolina has the 10th highest reported rates of Melanoma, the lethal form of skin cancer, in the country. Many teens and young adults do not think about cancer at this stage in their lives but Melanoma is the second most common type of cancer in those that are 15-25 years of age. Certain high risk behaviors like tanning bed use and irresponsible sunbathing habits are said to be linked to these incidence rates. Coincidentally, women 18-25 comprise 70% of the consumer base for the tanning bed industry. Ironically, appearance is the driving force behind decisions to tan but appearance of the skin can be negatively affected by this behavior on a long-term basis. Moreover, the sun (real or artificial) is responsible for 90% of the visible signs of aging. Remember, tans fade but the damage is there to stay. It looms underneath the skin and surfaces little by little in the form of freckles, sun spots, and hyperpigmentation.
UVR can be emitted both from natural sunlight and artificial sources like tanning beds. Neither is safer than the other but tanning beds can release up to 12 times the amount of UVR than the sun at mid-day. In fact, in one 10 minute session, certain high pressure tanning beds can produce the equivalent of being out in the sun for four hours. While it is true that sunshine can give you a healthy dose of Vitamin D, you only need a few minutes in natural sunlight to achieve this. Keep in mind that overexposure to UVR can cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, and eye damage which should always be taken seriously. One can help protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun by doing the following things:
- Stay out of tanning beds! Those that start tanning before the age of 34 increase their risk for skin cancer by 74%.
- Get checked out by a Dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious. Visit skincancer.org to learn how to do a self-screening.
- Wear SPF 30 or more if in the sun for prolonged period of time and SPF 15 or 20 on a daily basis.
- Protect your eyes and face with sunglasses, hats, or visors.
- Use lip balm with SPF if spending time outdoors.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Know your skin type. If you burn easily, take extra precaution in the sun.
- Opt for self-tanners or airbrush tanning over tanning beds and outdoor sunbathing.
- Know the facts. For more information visit skincancer.org