May is skin cancer awareness month and a wake-up call for the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, an estimated 5 million people living in the United States will be diagnosed with skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
However, the most staggering statistic is that skin cancer is considered the most preventable type of cancer. The biggest culprit of non-melanoma skin cancers is unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
So, what is ultraviolet or UV rays or radiation? Let’s start with the three main types of UV rays. The first and most noticeable one is UVA rays. These rays are the ones that lead to those pesky crow’s feet wrinkles and sunspots. They are an aesthetic nightmare but they are also responsible for increasing your risk of skin cancer. If you are hitting a tanning bed on a regular basis, know that these devices give off the largest amount of UVAs.
The second is UVB rays. They are considered more potent than UVA rays and can do more drastic damage to your skin and even your skin cell’s DNA! Every time you get a sunburn, it was from UVB.
The third kind is UVC and at present, do not break through our earth’s atmosphere and are not commonly linked to skin cancer. While UVA and UVB rays are considered more dangerous, UVC rays are still not safe.
Here are some safety tips to help prevent and lower your risk of skin cancer.
—Strongest hours. The sun’s strongest UV rays happen during the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. Because these are typically the hours that you would be outside, it’s important to always apply sunblock regardless of whether it’s overcast or not.
—Higher elevation. If you live in Colorado you may have heard that the sun is more intense and you are more likely to get a sunburn. This is true because the higher the altitude the higher the UV rays.
—Cloudy days. Don’t skip the sunblock even on cloudy days. While overcast days can (on occasion) block out UV, it can also boost UV exposure depending on what types of clouds are in the sky. Because you have better things to do than measure and analyze clouds and UV levels, don’t rely on cloud cover to protect your skin.
—The right protection. One very simple way to protect your skin is to wear clothing that has UPF 50+ protection and bring a hat and sunglasses. When choosing the right sunblock for your skin: be picky. Some sunscreens are not only ineffective at protecting your skin but may contain dangerous chemicals that will further damage your skin. The most important ingredients are the proper percentage of zinc and titanium dioxide rather than SPF coverage. One good medical grade sunscreen is the Epionce products and worth every penny.
For more tips on how to get your skin ready for summer, check out our blog on getting your skin prepped for the summer months.