According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. The National Eye Institute reports that prolonged ultraviolet (UV) exposure may also lead to cataracts, which affects more than 20 million Americans over age 40.
The National Institute on Aging points to sunlight as a major culprit of wrinkles, dryness, and age spots.
The best way to avoid trouble? Block harmful rays with sun protection when you're out during the day - even during cloudy days as sunrays can penetrate light clouds, mist, and fog. The danger also exists in all seasons. You can get as much as 20% of your UV exposure in the winter, spring and fall.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Studies have found that excessive sun exposure raises the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 62,000 new cases of melanoma in 2006, and nearly 8,000 will die of the ailment.
Here’s what you’ll need to stay sun safe:
Sunscreen is a highly recommended defense against sunburn and skin cancer. Make sure to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go out. Put on enough so that it takes a full minute to rub in. If at the beach, spread at least 1 ounce - enough to fill a shot glass - on your face and entire body. Use more if you need to for good coverage. If you swim, sweat, or are outdoors for a long time, reapply every two hours.
Your sunscreen should also have the following qualities:
- It is water resistant. Sweat or water cannot easily remove it.
- It has SPF of 15 or higher. According to the AAD, skin damage can happen even without a burn. Plus, higher SPF numbers do not give proportionate protection. SPF 15 deflects 93% of sun-burning rays, whereas SPF 30 deflects 97%.
- It provides broad-spectrum protection, which is in sunscreens containing benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium oxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone.
Clothing can also keep you protected. Start with a hat, because those harmful rays reach your scalp and your ears when you leave your head unprotected. Baseball caps are not nearly as effective as hats with broad brims, because they leave your ears exposed.
Garments designed to ward off skin-cancer-causing rays are now available in specialty stores. These are given an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating, indicating how much of the sun's rays are absorbed by the fabric. Articles with UPF 30, for example, allow only 1/30 of UV light to penetrate.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothes with certain qualities can prevent harmful rays from reaching the skin.
- Garments made of unbleached cotton, high-luster polyesters, and thin, satiny silk can absorb or reflect UV radiation, preventing damaging rays from reaching the skin.
- Darker materials tend to absorb UV light, keeping it away from your body.
- Clothes with tight weaves or knits prevent penetration of harmful rays.
Lip balm is essential as the lips are a common site for skin and lip cancer, primarily because of extended sun exposure.
- Look for lip-specific products that have SPF 15 or higher. Use a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher if you have a history of lip and skin cancer.
- Apply lip product every two hours or so, based on the amount of contact with the UV rays.
- While in the sun, stay away from baby oil, petroleum jelly, or high-shine lip gloss.
- If you decide to wear lipstick, try darker shades as they provide more UV defense than sheer, glossy ones. Better yet, wear lipstick with SPF, or apply a lip conditioner with SPF and antioxidants under lipstick for extra moisture and protection.
Sunglasses defend against prolonged UV exposure that can redden the whites of eyes, just as the sun can burn skin. Over time, this can cause eye problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. To prevent eye damage, choose sunglasses with the following qualities:
- UV 400 protection. It blocks up to 400 nanometers of UV light.
- Impact resistant. The shades can possibly withstand active lifestyles or an accident.
- The right color. Translucent-colored sunglasses are hot, but to ward against distortion of colors, stick to gray and brown shades.
- The right price. Effective eye defense can fit any budget, from $10 to $1,000.
Cosmetics can protect against the sun's harmful rays. While any kind of coating on your face can help block UV light, cosmetics by themselves do not have enough protection to prevent sunburn or skin cancer.
Mineral makeup, darker foundations, powders, and eye shadows do have better sun-protective qualities than other cosmetics. Makeup that contains broad-spectrum SPF has UV-filtering qualities as well. However makeup with SPF is not as effective as sunscreen by itself. Makeup doesn't bind to the skin as well as sunscreen.
Source: Web MD