By Riley Watts, Intern
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and a perfect time to talk about ways you can protect your skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In a recent report from the Surgeon General, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. with five million people treated each year!
We know that 65% of melanoma cancer cases are a result of UV radiation exposure from the sun. Each year in the U.S., an additional 400,000 cases of skin cancer are estimated to be related to indoor tanning.
The truth is that anyone cancer get skin cancer; however, most skin cancers can be prevented. It is commonly believed that a tan is an indicator of good health, but in reality, a tan is a sign of damaged skin. It is also false that “having a good base tan will protect your skin from the sun.”
A tan is your skin’s response to injury. More than 1 out of every 3 Americans report getting sunburned each year and sunburn from overexposure to UV rays is a major cause of skin cancer. So what can you do to protect your skin?
The best thing you can do to protect your skin outdoors is to wear broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ to protect any exposed skin and reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours while outside. You should also seek shade between the times of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. because that’s when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.
In addition, you should do a self-skin examination from head-to-toe every month. This involves looking for any suspicious spots or moles on your body. If you notice anything unusual, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
It’s also important that you avoid indoor tanning completely. Through the years, tanning beds have become popular, but they can be to blame for rising rates of skin cancer among teens and young adults in the U.S.
Indoor tanning can also result in fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, cataracts and brown spots on your skin making you look older than what you actually are. One indoor tanning session increases your risk for melanoma by 20%!
Not all exposure to the sun is bad, but it needs to be in moderation. The sun produces Vitamin D which helps with bone health and your immune system. The sun can also enhance your mood and help you relax from a stressful day, but you still have to practice sun safety. Wear your sunscreen and sunglasses, chill in the shade, and ditch indoor tanning. Your skin will thank you later!