The sun’s UV rays can be harmful to our skin in many ways. Not only can they cause skin cancer, UV rays can also cause premature aging, macular degeneration (blindness) and immuno suppression (weakening of the body so that it cannot protect itself). Protecting our skin from the harmful rays can prevent most skin cancers according to the most recent research. By providing protection for our skin we reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. There are several practices that are recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Avoid Tanning Deliberately
Even though it may feel very good to lie in the sun it can have negative results for the skin. Tanning can present a 1 in 5 chance that skin cancer will develop. It can also result in premature aging. It may sound safer to use a tanning bed or sunlamps, but they also emit UV radiation which can cause skin cancer and premature aging. For those who really must have a tanned look, consider using a product that is sunless, like a self-tanning product. It is important to note that these products do not provide protection for the skin so it is still important to use sunscreen.
Use Sunscreen for All Exposed Skin
Any sunscreen that is used should have a Sun Protection Factor of at least 30. Make sure it is a broad spectrum sunscreen and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply enough sunscreen that will protect the skin. Many people apply too little sunscreen so that it is not offering adequate protection. At least one ounce needs to be used on exposed skin in order to provide protection. Make sure to cover any area of exposed skin including neck, hands, toes, nose and ears. These are very common areas for skin cancer to develop. Apply sunscreen between 15 and 30 minutes before being exposed to the sun and reapply about every 2 hours. Reapply sunscreen after sweating or being in the water. Just because you use sunscreen does not mean it is safe to sunbathe!
Wear Protective Clothing
Clothing can also provide protection from the sun’s harmful rays. When it is possible, wear long pants, long sleeved shirts and a wide-brimmed hat. Clothing with tighter weaves provides more protection. Clothing can be purchased which is designed specifically to provide protection against the sun’s rays. Wearing a hat with a wide brim will help provide protection for the face and neck. Make sure the hat has a wide enough brim that the entire face and neck areas are shaded when it is being worn.
Other Tips for Protection
The sun’s rays will be the strongest between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. If it is possible seek shade during these peak hours. It is advisable to use more caution when you are near water, sand or snow as these elements can reflect the sun’s damaging rays which can increase the chances of sunburn. Make sure your diet includes plenty of foods with vitamin D instead of counting on the sun to provide this essential nutrient.
When to Seek a Professional
The rule of thumb is to “check your birthday suit on your birthday.” Every year give your body a good inspection to ensure that there is nothing suspicious. If there are any noticeable changes in the skin it is good to consult with a dermatologist or skin professional. Anything that appears to be growing or bleeding on the skin should be checked out by a qualified professional. When skin cancer is caught early on it is usually very treatable with successful results.