As May was Skin Cancer Awareness Month and as we’re heading straight into summer—we thought it’d be a great time to remind ourselves of how important it is to protect our skin (not just make it glow!). The truth is, skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Yet, more than 5 million cases are diagnosed every year. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer before the age of 70, and more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States than all other cancers combined.
What causes skin cancer? Sun exposure is a big risk factor. Approximately 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanoma skin cancers are caused by excessive UV exposure. The difference between nonmelanoma and melanoma has to do with commonality and danger. Melanoma is less common than nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell skin cancers and squamous cell skin cancers. However, melanoma is much more dangerous because it can spread to other parts of the body if it’s not detected early enough. This makes it harder to treat once it has spread.
Even though skin cancer has reached epidemic proportions, many people still seem to take it seriously. Indoor tanning (more than 419,000 cases of skin cancer each year are linked to this in the United States) and outdoor tanning remain popular, as many people really seem to prefer to have that “bronze glow” that continues to be coveted.] Unfortunately, this desire for a certain look can have very serious health ramifications.
It also doesn’t really matter if you are light-skinned or dark-skinned. Although people with more melanin in their skin are less likely to burn as fast as someone who is very fair, they can and do still burn. Paradoxically, because they have more melanin and don’t burn as easily as someone of a lighter complexion, they may eschew using sunscreen altogether, and this in turn results in more cases of skin cancer. So if you do have a darker complexion, please don’t skimp on sunscreen and other sun protection measures.
Furthermore, although the risk of skin cancer may not be taken very seriously by many people, it is so easy to prevent as long as you limit your time in the sun, wear hats and other protective clothing and always wear sunscreen. In this piece, we’ll discuss how you can best prevent skin cancer and help educate others as well.
Skin Cancer Protection Measures
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular daily use of a sunscreen of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 can reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer by approximately 40%. The same degree of SPF can reduce the risk of melanoma by 50%.
Note that SPF measures sunscreen protection only from UVB rays, which are the type of sun’s rays that cause skin to burn and turn red and that contribute to skin cancer. UVA rays are the type of rays that are associated with accelerating skin aging and causing aging concerns like wrinkles and skin laxity but is also known to contribute to skin cancer. This is why it’s important to use a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Although sunscreen is extremely important to apply every day whether the sun is bright or the sky is overcast (always remember that sunlight penetrates clouds), you should also always wear sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers most of your body.
Seek shady areas, even if you’re by the pool (a large umbrella works nicely), and limit your time in the sun between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun is strongest.
The Best Sunscreens
Since spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, regularly using a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum protection will help reduce the risk.
As previously stated, wearing sunscreen will only reduce skin cancer risk by about 40 to 50%, which is why other sun protective measures are so important. It is also absolutely crucial to apply sunscreen thoroughly all over your body if you’re going swimming, to wait at least 15 minutes after application before venturing out into the sunlight and to reapply at least every two hours if not more frequently. If you have spent a lot of time in the water, toweled off or sweated quite a bit, you should reapply sunscreen right away.
Below are two options to consider that are excellent for daily use:
Image Skincare PREVENTION+ Daily Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30+ — This is a great sunscreen moisturizer to apply after a serum and before you do your makeup. It is a mineral sunscreen with a special type of zinc oxide that offers protection from UVB/UVA rays without giving skin that unwanted white pallor so often associated with mineral sunscreens.
Image Skincare PREVENTION+ Daily Matte SPF 32+ Oil Free Moisturizer – If you’re concerned with looking greasy or shiny after using sunscreen, this is a great choice for you. This particular SPF moisturizer will leave skin looking beautifully matte without any unwanted shine. It’s also oil-free, which means you won’t have to worry about breaking out after use.