Summer fun calls us to participate in all sorts of fun outdoor activities, but don’t venture out without sunscreen. Damaging UV sunlight rays penetrate the earth’s atmosphere even on a cloudy day. Developing the habit of applying a product with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more will help defend your skin against premature signs of aging, and increase your odds of dodging skin cancer.
Atmospheric changes in the past 50 years have increased your odds of developing a life threatening sun related malady. Our protective ozone layer has developed holes, allowing more intense UV rays to reach your skin
One of every five people will develop some type of skin cancer during their lifetime according to the American Melanoma Foundation. Every 65 minutes one American dies from the end stage of what began as a small abnormal growth of one cell. Once a cell is ignited with this command to divide and proliferate, an individual will develop a dense mass of cells that don’t belong.
An asymmetrical change in a mole or a red or brown patch of scaly skin that doesn’t heal is an indication of a problem. If any of these cancerous cells migrate from their original location into the blood stream, they can invade other parts of the body and spread, or metastasize, the cancer. Since damage from UV rays is cumulative, every overexposure to sunshine increases your risk of developing a cancerous growth.
Statistical data collected from 1950-2001shows a 165% increase in mortality from skin cancer, and a 690% increase in the occurrence of abnormal skin growths. Men and women over the age of 50, and women in their twenties with a tanning obsession are the groups at greatest risk. Other factors that influence a person’s susceptibility to UV damage include:
- A fair complexion with light skin color that burns instead of tanning
- Freckles, and skin that turns red with minimal sun exposure
- Red or blonde hair
- Blue or green eyes
- A personal history of skin cancer, or a diagnosis of skin cancer in their family
- Spending a great deal of time outdoors in work or play
- Experiencing two or more blistering, peeling sunburns early in life
- More than 50 moles
Geographic location can also be a contributing factor to UV intensity because some areas receive high ratings on the UV Index. The rating for your area is available on a daily basis at the Weather Channel and your local newspaper. Areas near water, such as beaches, lakes, swimming pools, and water parks, draw hoards of people that delight in their surroundings. While we seek to escape the heat by wearing minimal clothing, we’re exposing a tremendous percentage of our bodies to direct sunlight.
In order to avoid sunburn after several hours outdoors, applying a sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 is recommended for young and old alike. You should apply your sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to be outdoors, so that your skin can absorb the SPF. Since sun protection products are designed to be water resistant (because no product is actually waterproof), reapplication is necessary when your protection has been washed away or wiped off with a towel. If you’re in the sun more than two hours, another application is in order.
You can prevent UV damage to your skin with proactive measures. Wear sunscreen when you venture outdoors. Try to avoid the intense heat of the sun during mid day, from about 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Cover your arms and legs to shield them from the sun. If you should develop an unusual skin patch that doesn’t heal, make an appointment with a dermatologist to get a medical opinion. Problems that are diagnosed early are the easiest to treat.
You can still have just as much fun in the sun by wearing sunscreen, and the steps you take to prevent skin damage today will help keep you healthy and active for many years to come.