Get the Skinny on Summertime Sun
- Skin cancer accounts for more than half of the cancer cases in the United States each year.
- And most of the more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed annually in the United States are considered to be sun-related.
- Basal or squamous cell cancers are the most common non-melanoma forms of skin cancer.
- Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for about 60,000 cases of skin cancer annually.
- Even for melanoma, if it is diagnosed early, the 5-year localized survival rate is 99 percent.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer. UV damage can also cause wrinkles and blotches or spots on your skin.
Most non-melanoma skin cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast or slow growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma skin cancers account for over 8,000 deaths a year. See your doctor early if they have any signs or symptoms of skin cancer, such as:
- Any change on the skin, especially in the size or color of a mole or other darkly pigmented growth or spot, or a new growth
- Scaling, oozing, bleeding, or change in the appearance of a bump or nodule
- The spread of pigmentation beyond its border such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
- A change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Take these steps today to protect your skin:
- Stay out of the sune between 10:00 am and 4 pm, when UV rays are strongest
- Stay in the shade if you are outside during the midday.
- BUT: Understand that ultraviolet (UV) rays will penetrate clouds, so it is possible to get a bad sunburn even on a cloudy day.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and re-apply throughout the day
- Reapply every 2 hours as well as after swimming, toweling dry, or perspiring.
- Know your risk factors for skin cancer, which include a fair complexion, family history, multiple or atypical moles, and severe sunburns as a child
A sunscreen labeled SPF 30 blocks twice as much UV radiation as one labeled SPF 15
A Quick Quiz
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) describes how long the product will protect your skin from burning if you apply the sunscreen correctly. Very light-skinned people start to burn in about 15 minutes on a sunny day, so wearing an SPF 15 sunscreen (if applied and reapplied properly) would prevent sunburn for about 225 minutes (15 SPF x 15 minutes until sun burn = 225), or 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The SPF 30 sunscreen should protect skin from burning for 450 minutes (30 x 15 = 450), or 7 hours and 30 minutes. Remember that you’ll need to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or even more often if you’re swimming or sweating. Be sure to choose a broad-spectrum product that blocks UVB and UVA light, and use a lot.
Choose proper clothing to offer further protection. Light-colored, lightweight, and loosely woven fabrics do not offer much protection from the sun. Instead, choose:
- Dark-colored clothing made of tightly woven fabric
- Sun-protective clothing that has been treated with a chemical sunblock during the manufacturing process—choose a fabric with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 50, which allows only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. (To receive the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, sun-protective fabrics must have a minimum UPF of 30.)
- You can also wash sun protection into clothes with an approved laundry additive that increases the protection and lasts through 20 washings.
Protect your eyes as well! Read the label on sunglasses carefully.
- Wear sunglasses with 99 percent to 100 percent UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
- Get sunglasses that block both forms of UV radiation—UVA and UVB.
- Don’t assume that you get more UV protection with pricier sunglasses or glasses with a darker tint.
- Select wraparound glasses that offer side protection.