As a child I loved to put a blanket down on the grass and lather my body up with tanning oil that rated 4 or less in order to make sure I had a beautiful tan all summer long. I would burn the first time out, but after that might skin color just darkened. Sure I had heard about UV rays, but I thought “what’s the big deal?” Today the newspapers, magazines, and Internet are literally covered with spreads about how dangerous laying out in the sun and tanning beds are. There was one lady in my hometown that laid out every single day and went to the tanning beds during the winter months. Her skin was a beautiful bronze color, but her skin was also very dry and wrinkled. While she might have had a great tan, she looked ten years older than what she actually was.
While skin cancer is not the deadliest cancer, it is the most common. May is the Skin Cancer Awareness month. According to M. Shane Chapman, MD, “It was once thought that UVB rays were the most important contributors to wrinkling, skin disease, and skin cancer, but more recent studies have shown that UVA radiation is equally or even more important in the development of solar damage and skin diseases, such as lupus erythematosus and melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.” So what exactly are UV rays? UV is ultraviolet radiation. There are actually three types of these invisible rays that come from the sun. They are UVA, UVB, and UVC. This is how your skin becomes burned and can eventually result in skin cancer.
Whenever you are out in the natural sunlight, these rays are bounced from the sun onto your skin. You do not need to be laying out for these rays to reach you. You may be doing yard work, playing, driving with the window down, etc. There are some things that you can do to protect your skin. First and foremost, use sunscreen with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher on any exposed skin. While most of us don’t want to where long pants and long sleeve shirts, the more skin you cover with clothing while out in the sun the better you will be able to protect your skin. Wearing a hat can help protect your head. Wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes. Find yourself a nice shaded area in your yard or at the park. If you have air conditioning in your car, use it instead of putting your arm out the window.
What exactly do those SPF numbers on the sunscreen bottles really mean? An SPF 15 gives you approximately 93% of coverage. SPF 30 is 96.7%. SPF 50 is 98%. Any SPF number over 50 means nothing. One percent here or there is just one-up-man-ship between sunscreen companies. The main thing to keep in mind is that you always apply sunscreen to yourself as well as your children whenever going outside. Be aware that the sun’s UV rays can also penetrate through the clouds and you can still get sunburned.
Recently the Journal of National Cancer Institute ran a study on a group of people who had used tanning beds, booths, or a sun lamp. These people were “2.5 times more likely to develop the squamous type of cancer while the increase of basal cancer was 1.5 times greater when compared to those without cancer.” Because of their tanning bed usage, those not currently diagnosed with skin cancer could be in the future.
The most important piece of information here is that you can protect yourself and your skin by taking just a few extra steps. Take the time to put sunscreen on. Wear light colored clothing to help filter out the sun’s rays. Avoid extended periods of time out in the sun. Take breaks and go inside to cool off for a bit. All of these tips will help you stay cool and protected during the sunny summer months.