Skin cancer can happen to anyone, no matter skin type, age or overall health. While that’s true, there are different factors that determine risk, and the biggest driver of skin cancer still stems from sun behavior.
A recent study in the United States by the American Cancer Society as reported by the Washington Post found that “45 percent of cancer deaths and 42 percent of cancer cases in the US could be attributed to ‘modifiable’ risk factors.” In other words, factors that were not inherited but caused by behavior and lifestyle choices.
When looking at skin cancer in particular, the study found that “exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning beds was associated with 96 percent of skin cancers in men and 94 percent in women.”
Another report published in 2013 from the UK’s Office for National Statistics noted that increases in skin cancer rates were “considered to be due to changes in exposure to solar UV rays as a result of altered patterns of behavior in recent decades, such as choice of clothing and recreational sunbathing.”
UV rays damage DNA in the skin
UV rays from the sun damage skin cells’ ability to repair DNA. When this happens, they can mutate and multiply, eventually causing tumors, or, if left unchecked, metastasizing throughout the body. That’s why prevention is so important.
Skin care saves lives
If caught early while it’s still in the skin, skin cancer is usually curable, typically able to be treated with a simple surgery. However, once it has spread throughout the body, treatment becomes much more difficult. Taking the proper skin care precautions can prevent cancer from forming in the first place or catch it early if it does.
What are the proper precautions?
Basic sun protection means:
- Protective clothing (i.e., a hat, wide-brimmed preferably, long sleeve shirts and pants and sunglasses). There is now sun protective clothing available as well which is specifically designed to block UV rays and comes with a UPF rating (which functions like SPF).
- Broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Applying sunscreen regularly (at least every two hours, and more often when sweating or getting wet) is vital for blocking the sun’s UV rays and preventing burning or skin damage.
- Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer and looking out for any changes occurring on the skin. Early detection is the key to prevent skin cancer from progressing and becoming life-threatening.
Even if the sun is hiding behind the clouds, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of skin protection. The sun’s radiation can shine through the clouds and cause just as much damage as a sunny day.