A few simple, everyday steps can help you prevent skin cancer – learn how.
Over the last 30 years, more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer as compared to all the other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. One of the deadliest forms of cancer, skin cancer is primarily caused by exposure to the sun. This exposure could be in the form of long term contact, or short but intense sun-exposure that leads to sun burns. There are a few risk factors that present a greater chance of a person getting skin cancer. Some of these factors, such as a genetic proclivity to getting skin cancer, are beyond your control. However, skin cancer is a preventable disease because risk factors such as the amount of exposure to the sun as well as use of artificial UV radiation in the form of sun beds can be controlled.
The solution need not necessarily include staying out of the sun completely. Most people across the globe enjoy spending some time under the warmth and light of the sun. Early morning walks and lounging by the beach are favorite pastimes for many of us. So how can you ensure that you get your dose of basking in sunlight, while also preventing skin cancer? Here are a few simple, everyday steps you can take to boost sun safety, and reduce the chances of getting skin cancer.
The right amount of sunlight is believed to have mood lifting benefits as it helps balance a person’s serotonin levels. Furthermore, spending some time under the sun causes the skin to create vitamin D which leads to better bone health. In case of sun exposure though, too much of a good thing is bad. The sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR) are responsible for skin damage, premature aging, discoloration and leathering of skin, as well as skin cancer. So while you can still venture out in the sun to soak in the good stuff, you should know when to avoid the sun and seek the shade too. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm every day. If you happen to be out during these hours, carry an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun or head to a shaded spot. Early morning sun rays are known to be the most beneficial ones, so schedule your exercise time accordingly. The beach is best enjoyed as the sun begins to set, so try to plan your favorite outdoor activities post 4pm.
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it”, sang Baz Luhrmann in his 1999 hit single “The Sunscreen Song”. His advice is as relevant today as it was back then. One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to effectively neutralize the effect of the sun’s rays on your skin. This is where sunscreen comes in.
It is a common misconception that you ought to wear sunscreen with high SPF in order to adequately protect yourself from the sun’s rays – the higher the better. However, the truth is that a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 is effective enough to filter out more than 93 percent of all the incoming UVB rays. Higher SPF sunscreens offer marginally more protection, and are recommended for those who have sensitive skin that is prone to burning, people suffering from photosensitivity or lupus, and athletes who spend a lot of time in the sun.
While a sunscreen with SPF 15 is enough to protect you from the sun’s UVB rays, is that really enough? Recent research suggests that it is not. Other than UVB shortwaves, you also need to protect your skin against the sun’s long-waves or UVA rays. UVA rays are known to penetrate the skin even more deeply than UVB rays, and are the primary cause for skin aging due to sun-damage. With this in mind, experts recommend the use of “broad spectrum” sunscreens that offer protection from both, UVA and UVB rays.
When it comes to using sunscreen, another common misconception is that sunscreen needs to be used only during summers. However, the truth is that you need to use sunscreen every single day, all through the year, if you hope to prevent skin cancer. Sunlight reflects off ice, snow, sand, and water. This causes the ultraviolet rays to intensify, thereby causing more damage to your skin. Whether you are skiing or the day is overcast, do not forget to apply a layer of sunscreen at least 30 minutes before stepping outside. Sunscreen loses efficacy in a couple of hours, so ensure that you reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive perspiration.
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