Yes, I did see it--even if it was for just a teensy weensy time today! The sun finally came out. It has been overcast and rainy for the past week. Our local weather guy did say today that the sun should come out and STAY out later this week. So that got me thinking about the sun and how we need to protect ourselves from its rays.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, prevention works best when consistent, healthy habits are adopted early in life. Considering that just one blistering sunburn during childhood nearly doubles the lifetime risk of melanoma, early education and protection is so important. (Wish my parents had known this when I was little.)
The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can cause substantial illness and, if untreated, can cause considerable damage and disfigurement. If detected and treated early, however, these carcinomas have a cure rate of more than 95%.
Malignant melanoma causes more than 75% of all deaths from skin cancer. This disease can spread to other organs, most commonly the lungs and liver. Malignant melanoma diagnosed at an early stage usually can be cured, but melanoma diagnosed at a late stage is more likely to spread and cause death.
Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays appears to be the most important environmental factor in developing skin cancer. This makes skin cancer a largely preventable disease.
UV rays from artificial sources of light, such as tanning beds and sun lamps are just as dangerous as those from the sun, and should also be avoided.
No matter what your skin type sun exposure can damage your immune system and make your body more vulnerable to infections and cancers.
To keep safe:
- Minimize exposure to the sun during the hours when exposure could be most damaging, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Typically, exposure at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. is only one third that at midday. Try getting outdoor activities accomplished during minimum exposure hours. Remember, however, you can still get a sunburn even in the mid-afternoon.
- Remember that incidental time in the sun can add up to long-term sun damage, including the time spent walking the dog, window shopping, performing outdoor chores, or jogging at lunch. Even on overcast days, 30 to 60% of the sun's rays can penetrate to the Earth's surface.
- Wear a hat and other protective clothing, as well as sunglasses, to protect your body from too much sun.
- Use 'broad spectrum sunscreens,' which are those that contain active ingredients that absorb at least 85 percent of the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Read labels carefully and choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15, which filters out both UVA and UVB radiation. Check your sunscreen from last summer for its expiration date.
- Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed skin, about 20 minutes before exposure, especially to areas like the rims of the ears, the back of the neck, and the tops of the feet. For an average adult, the recommended dose is 1 ounce, or what would fit into a shot glass per application. Reapply every 2 hours, after being in the water, or after exercising and sweating.
Performing a self-examine is easy and smart.
- Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then right and left sides, arms raised.
- Bend your elbows, look carefully at your forearms, back of your upper arms and palms.
- Look at the backs of your legs and feet, spaces between toes and soles.
- Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror.
- Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.
Hopefully the sun is shining where you are. Do you have a favorite brand of sunscreen?