Summer has arrived, which means more time outdoors in skimpy clothing. This is also the time for tanning, a practice that can have serious long-term health consequences. Though popular among Americans, tanning in fact damages the skin.
The darkening that is associated with a suntan is actually an attempt by the body to repair this damage.
One of the adverse effects of excessive sun exposure is skin cancer, the most dangerous type of which is melanoma.
Protect yourself from skin cancer – here’s how
The answer is in sunscreen
A proven way to protect yourself from the damaging rays of the sun is to use sunscreen. The effectiveness of the product is determined by its sun protection factor, or SPF. A higher SPF number will guarantee greater protection. Sunscreen needs to be applied liberally, which means covering the surface of the skin that will be exposed to the sun at least half an hour before going outside. Additional sunscreen needs to be applied on anyone who sweats profusely or ventures into water. Children need sunscreen protection whenever they go outside, even in cloudy weather, and infants under six months of age should always be kept out of direct sunlight. The protection of your lips can be accomplished through the use of a balm with an SPF rating of at least 15. Nor are the eyes immune from sunlight damage, which makes the wearing of sunglasses a smart move.
But sunscreen isn’t enough
Even when using a sunscreen, exposure to sunlight should be limited. Since the rays of the sun reach their peak between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., outdoor activities should be avoided or at least curtailed during these hours. Those who go out during the day should wear clothing that is tightly woven and hats with brims large enough to shade their face and neck areas. It is also wise to check the ultraviolet index, which should appear in the local newspaper, before going out. The higher the number, the greater the risk. Additionally, everyone should avoid tanning beds.
Skin cancer may develop years or even decades after prolonged exposure to sunlight, often revealing itself in the form of a mole. Survival rates for skin cancer are relatively high when the malignancy is diagnosed in its early stages. This is reason to have regular skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist. However, the surest cure for skin cancer is prevention, which is best achieved by protecting yourself from the sun every day of the year.