Get Educated: A Look at Skin Cancer and Sun Care

by Melissa Chichester

As the weather gets warmer and the sun shines longer throughout the day, most of us are daydreaming about lounging at the beach, soaking up some rays while drinking lemonade, and immersing in a juicy book. The vision itself is relaxing, but we need to remember one important element: slathering on SPF to protect our skin from harmful UV rays! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a public health organization, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world and that one person dies every hour from melanoma. The CDC confirms that despite more education than ever about increasing skin care diagnoses, rates of skin cancer continue to rise. Let’s find out how to safely protect skin from the sun while still enjoying nature (especially those relaxing beach days)!

Types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that typically develop on skin that has experienced prolonged exposure to the sun. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer according to the American Academy of Dermatology, while the second most common type is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Actinic Keratoses (AK) is a common precancerous growth that people with light skin are especially prone to developing. The deadliest form of skin cancer is melanoma, which appears as a mole or a new dark spot on the skin. Any moles that are asymmetrical, have changed shape, and are larger than a classic pencil eraser should be examined by a healthcare professional.

How to protect your skin from the sun

Yeah, yeah, you might be thinking, wear SPF. That’s true; SPF is a component of sun protection and it should be at least SPF 15 and above. It should be reapplied throughout the day depending on the activities you’re participating in, especially if you are sweating a lot or swimming. The general guideline is to reapply every two hours. In addition to SPF, there are other ways to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, including:

  • Avoid getting a sunburn.
  • Cover up with wide-brimmed hats, umbrellas, and sunglasses that block UV rays.
  • Examine your skin each month, paying special attention to freckles and moles.
  • Apply sunscreen to your body 30 minutes before spending time outside.
  • Wear sunscreen in the car while driving long distances, especially on your hands
  • Avoid tanning beds.

More skin cancer statistics

The Skin Cancer Foundation has put together a glossary of common terms used by physicians in the treatment of skin cancer. In addition, they have compiled some startling statistics on the current state of skin cancer around the world:

  • Between 2008 and 2018, melanoma diagnosis has risen by 53%.
  • By age 70, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.
  • After the age of 50, more men develop skin cancer than women.
  • Ultraviolet radiation is considered a carcinogen.
  • A study done on women under 30 who developed melanoma revealed that 97% of them had used tanning beds.
  • 90% of signs of skin aging is caused by the sun.

Still worried about that accidental sunburn? Check out 5 ways to relieve skin after a day in the sun.