The “healthy glow” of a tan has a darker side, one that many Americans ignore when they seek sunlight or tanning booths, and forget or forgo sunscreen or fail to use it properly. A tan is evidence of sun damage, and an indication that a person has high ultraviolet (UV) exposure and is at a higher risk than others to get skin cancer. Skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the United States, as stated by the American Cancer Society (ACS), which one in five of us will get in our lifetimes. It is also the most preventable form of cancer.
Sturdy Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Care physicians recommend practicing safe-sun habits and routinely looking for signs of skin cancer. Adhere to the following advice to help protect you and your family from skin cancer:
- “Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher every day to all exposed skin, even in the winter,” says Dr. Olympia Kovich, board certified dermatologist. “For prolonged outdoor activity or a day at the beach, though, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.” The term “broad-spectrum” means the sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply roughly every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-protection sunglasses, where possible.
- Seek shade when available, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Use extra caution near water, sand, and snow, because they reflect and intensify the rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn and skin damage.
- Avoid tanning booths and beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and indoor tanning can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want the look of a tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue using sunscreen.
- Perform regular self skin examinations. Skin cancer is the most curable cancer, particularly when it is detected and treated in its earliest stages. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist.