Pick up a bottle of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and slather it over your skin before you set foot outside this summer. Protecting yourself from skin cancer, not to mention unsightly cosmetic damage from the sun, is really that simple. And yet, judging from my years of spending nearly every weekend day and many weekdays playing out in the sun with other athletic-types like myself, I have come to the conclusion that way too many people must not realize the potentially fatal consequences that could result from ignoring the benefits of sunscreen. Read on..
Arguments I’ve heard against wearing sunscreen have ranged from complaints about its greasiness and sickeningly sweet scent to claims that it causes breakouts – despite the fact that many modern sunscreens boast non-greasy, unscented formulas that do not clog pores. Some people seem to even have some sort of macho issue about it, like it’s okay for men to burn themselves silly, while others shy away from sunscreen in order to “get a better tan.” Still others say that they never burn – but even so, exposure to the sun can still do plenty of damage. Hopefully over the next few years, such arguments will become obsolete as awareness increases about the dangers of overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
The most common cancer in the United States is skin cancer, accounting for about half of all cancer cases in the nation. It is also the most preventable form of cancer – in fact, about 80 percent of all skin cancer cases could be prevented if people followed some simple sun safety guidelines. While the advice to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the time period when the sun’s rays are strongest) may be unrealistic for outdoor-activity lovers, there are other ways of protecting yourself that are simple and take little time.
First and foremost on that list is wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every time you head outside, whether it’s sunny or cloudy (clouds do not block all of the sun’s rays). Slather it on, throw on a hat and wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants when you can. By taking these small actions, you can decrease your chances of having to deal with skin cancer during your lifetime.
David Erickson, president of Arvada-based Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, offers the following additional pointers about sunscreen application:
1. Put sunscreen on 30 minutes BEFORE you go outside. That allows sunscreen to set up properly on your skin.
2. The American Cancer Society states to reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes. The first application in the morning is by far the most important.
3. Water reflects 40% of the UV Radiations. Snow reflects 90%.
4. Always choose a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen.
Erickson also notes that at higher elevations, the incidence of melanoma is greater than the national average, due in part to the fact that for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the UV intensity increases from five to seven percent. Along with an active, outdoor-oriented lifestyle, you have a perfect recipe for skin cancer.
Still not convinced? Well, consider that skin cancer can be deadly, and that 8,000 people die annually from melanoma. Add to that the fact that the risk for malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has increased from 1 in 250 in 2001 to a current risk of 1 in 75, and maybe you’ll start reaching for that tube of sunscreen habitually, just like brushing your teeth.