Soaking Up The Sun Can Be Dangerous
With almost 300 days on which the sun shines, Los Angeles -- and Southern California generally -- is the weather-envy of pretty much every other US city.
But there's a downside to sunshine that most of us are aware of but few of us take steps to actively avoid: its effect on our skin.
For instance, Mr. Sunshine is responsible for about 90 percent of aging in our skin. Not cool.
More seriously, it's by far the biggest cause of skin cancer, especially the most common form. And more people suffer from skin cancer than all other forms of the disease combined.
How Does the Sun Cause Skin Cancer?
Ultra-violet (UV) rays that come from the sun (and also from salon tanning beds) are the culprits. They damage the genetic material in your skin and eventually cause cells to multiply out of control.
This can lead to skin cancer.
Am I At Risk of Getting Skin Cancer?
Cancer affects people of all types of skin complexion and can strike any part of the body -- even areas that are not normally exposed to the sun.
However, people with fairer complexions may be more at risk.
Risks also increase with age, since skin cancer may result from accumulation of the effects of UV radiation.
Skin experts use a system to measure complexion known as the Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification.
You can take this simple test online at https://tinyurl.com/fitz-skin-test . By answering a few questions, you'll get a personal score, which you can then use to both assess your skin cancer risks and get some relevant tips to protect yourself.
What is the Best Way to Protect your Skin from the Sun ?
What can you do to protect your skin from the sun?
Most of us instinctively know that shielding our skin from the sun is the most important step we can take to cut the risk of skin cancer. But few of us know the best way to do this.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these are the crucial things you should do:
- Don't allow your skin to burn
- Avoid using sun tanning beds
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Reapply every couple of hours
- Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with maximum UV protection
- Stay in the shade when you can, especially between 10am and 4pm when the sun's harmful rays are at their most intense.
- If you're planning outdoor activities, check the UV (ultra-violet) Index so you better understand the need for protection. The EPA has detailed information in this at https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-1
Understanding Your Sunscreen Options
We all know that sunscreen, applied properly and regularly, is a powerful defense against UV radiation.
But many of us are confused or ignorant about what's best. For instance, how much protection does a product provide against UV radiation?
A way of understanding what an SPF number means is that it's related to the amount of time it delays certain UV rays (known as UVBs) from damaging the skin.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org), if it normally takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to turn red, using an SPF15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening for 15 times that amount -- about five hours.
(In practice, you should never go that long before reapplying.)
But UVBs are not the only harmful rays from sun. There's also UVA, which doesn’t directly burn the skin but can also cause cancer.
To deal with both UVA and UVB, you need what is called a broad-spectrum protector. These days, most lotions and sprays are of the broad-spectrum type.
Are there other products that can protect you? For example, can coconut oil protect your skin from the sun?
The answer is often that they may be better than nothing (for example, coconut oil can block an estimated 20 percent of UV rays) but they're usually much less effective, and their “lastability” may be difficult to gauge.
Stick with SPF-specified products.
How Much Sunscreen Should I Use?
The recommended amount is one ounce (about two tablespoons) applied to your entire body about 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
What are the Best Sunglasses to Protect Against Skin Cancer?
Our eyes are sensitive to the sun, but it's the skin around them, including our eyelids, that is vulnerable to UV radiation.
Using a hat with a brim of at least 3 inches offers a degree of protection but sunglasses are the best shield.
Obviously, larger lens areas and wrap-around styles will cover the most skin surface but you also need to be sure they block at least 99 per cent of both UVA and UVB light.
Ideally, they should also guard against something known as HEV (high energy visible) light. This is not known as a cancer-causer but it may contribute to other eye disorders.
If you're not sure about these features, check with the manufacturer's website.
And if you're shopping to buy, check tags for their UV protection percentage. For an extra guarantee of safety, check for the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation.
Which Clothing Should I Wear to Protect Against Skin Cancer?
The more skin you cover, the better it is for protection against skin cancer.
When you buy clothing to deliver that protection, you should be looking for its ultra-violet protection factor (UPF).
This is usually a two- or three-digit number that indicates the fraction of UV radiation that can penetrate through the fabric.
A UPF of 50 means that only 1/50th of the UV rays can get through the fabric.
So, obviously, the higher the UPF, the more protection you'll be wearing.
Also, look out for seals of approval from organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation or the Photobiology Committee. They must have a UPF of at least 30.
(By the way, you may be able to increase the UPF factor of clothing by using certain laundry additives infused with sunscreen, even on your normal clothes.)
Just like insurance coverage, you should have regular health checks for your skin. Do a self-check every month and see a skin doctor every year.
And if it's time for your insurance health checkup, please contact us at Aldrich Taylor Insurance. Remember, we're here to protect you too!