Now that warmer weather has arrived and summer is very soon on the horizon, the number of people participating in outdoor activities is growing by leaps and bounds. And in the beautiful Charleston area, we certainly have no shortage of fun activities to enjoy outside, especially with the beach being conveniently located in our backyard.
But with increased sun exposure comes a greater risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in America. Though there are several forms of this disease, the deadliest, by far, is melanoma. Since May is Melanoma Awareness Month, we’re doing our part to help raise awareness about this very serious condition and educate you on how to protect yourself when you’re out enjoying those golden rays.
To give you an idea of how shockingly common skin cancer is, there are more than 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Based on that number, it’s estimated that one in five people will have the disease at some point in their lifetime. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, can get skin cancer. And although skin cancer is the type of cancer you can actually see, it often goes undetected in the early stages, leading to a greater risk of developing melanoma.
But take comfort in knowing that this disease is highly preventable with a few simple steps you can start taking today. In addition to wearing protective clothing and avoiding extended periods of sun exposure during peak hours of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m), the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun is to add a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your daily skincare routine, such as products like Obagi® Professional-C Suncare Broad Spectrum SPF 30 or Isdin® Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50+.
Broad-spectrum simply means that the sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays that can harm your skin. Most dermatologists recommend using at least an SPF 30, which blocks about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher SPF numbers will block more, but there is no sunscreen that can block 100% of UV rays. Also, keep in mind that higher SPF numbers don’t mean you can wait longer to reapply. No matter the SPF, sunscreen is most effective when reapplied approximately every two hours while outside, and more frequently than that if you’re swimming or sweating a lot.
Please don’t think you only need sunscreen if you’re spending a day at the beach, however. The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round and even on the cloudiest of days. In fact, 80% of the sun’s rays pass through clouds on overcast days. That’s why it’s so important to add sunscreen to your skincare regimen each and every day.
As if the threat of skin cancer wasn’t enough to convince you to apply sunscreen every day, here’s something to think about: most of what we refer to as visible aging isn’t attributed to how many candles are on your birthday cake; it’s primarily due to hours of unprotected sun exposure throughout your life. So, regular use of sunscreen not only protects you from skin cancer, it also wards off premature wrinkles, sunspots, and uneven skin tone, among other unwanted skin conditions. What more reason do you need to include SPF in your regular skincare routine?
But what about Vitamin D? While frequent use of sunscreen can interfere with the skin’s production of vitamin D, many people can still get what they need from certain foods, like fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks, or by adding a daily supplement. If you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels for any reason, be sure to talk to your doctor about the best course of action for you.
As a society, we’re actually living longer lives. That means we have a lot more aging to do…and you only get one skin. Yet even more reason to include the important preventative measure of applying sunscreen every time you venture out into the world. Stay in tune with your skin. Watch for signs of moles becoming oddly shaped or discolored and, as always, wear sunscreen. Doing so would be just like giving your future self a very important gift – the gift of healthy skin.