Any direct exposure of the skin to sunlight increases risk
for skin cancer. The sun emits ultraviolet rays that are
classified mostly into UVA and UVB. Most sun screens protect against
only UVB rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn and skin
cancer, but UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin, to cause
wrinkling, thinning, aging, and brown spots. Any exposure to the
sun’s rays can cause sunburns and skin damage. Long-term exposure
to either UVB or UVA, or both, can cause skin cancer.
VITAMIN D: People cannot meet their needs for vitamin D
unless they expose their skin to sunlight or take vitamin D
supplements. Food sources are inadequate and vitamin D pills may
not supply all the benefits of sunlight. If you do not allow the
sun’s rays to reach your skin, you will not be able to gain all
the benefits of sunlight. You can meet your vitamin D requirements
by exposing a small area of skin for about half an hour.
BODY PARTS THAT SHOULD ALWAYS BE COVERED: Since cumulative
exposure to sunlight over a lifetime is what causes skin cancers,
always cover the areas that have had the most sun exposure: face,
hands, arms and tops of the ears, Most basal and squamous skin
cancers occur on the face, ears, neck, forearms, and hands, but
melanoma occurs most commonly on the upper back for men and the
lower legs and upper back for women. Expose your legs or other
areas of your body that have received little cumulative sun
exposure over your lifetime. However, any sunlight exposure
increases risk for skin cancer and aging. Take care to avoid
sunburn, as a single sunburn increases risk for melanoma.
CLOTHES ARE FAR MORE PROTECTIVE THAN SUN SCREENS: In one
study, participants completed questionnaires on the frequency
with which they used sun screens, wore a hat or long sleeves, or
stayed in the shade, in comparison to their number of sunburns in
the past year. Although using sun screens is the most common sun
protective behavior, use of sun screens does not reduce risk for
sunburns. Those who avoid the sun by seeking shade or wearing
long sleeves are far less likely to suffer sunburns (Cancer Causes
and Control, June 2011). Wear a hat that covers your ears, a shirt,
and arm coolers on your arms when you exercise outdoors.
ARM COOLERS: Arm coolers are made of special materials
that evaporate water quickly so that your arms will feel cool
when sweat evaporates. You can even make your arms feel cold on
hot days just by pouring water on them. You can buy arm coolers
in sports stores or online.
CLOUDS DON’T PROTECT YOU: Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays
can pass through clouds to damage your skin.
GLASS DOES NOT PROTECT YOU: Glass blocks UVB rays that are
the primary causes of skin cancer and sunburns, but they do not
block UVA that can also cause skin cancer and aging.
BEACH UMBRELLAS DO NOT PROTECT YOU: UV rays are reflected
towards you from sand and water. Studies show that you get up to
84 percent of the exposure to UV radiation under an umbrella that
you receive in the open sun.
DARK COLORED FABRICS BLOCK UV RAYS BETTER THAN LIGHT
COLORS: The colors that block the most UV include black, deep
blue, orange and red.
TIGHTLY WOVEN FABRICS BLOCK MORE UV THAN LOOSER WEAVES.
Hold the material up to a light source. The more light that
passes through a fabric, the more UV will also pass.
SUNGLASSES HELP TO PREVENT SKIN CANCER: Skin cancers
around the eyes, mouth, ears and nose are among the most
difficult to treat and cure and are also the ones most likely to
recur after treatment. Cancers in these areas can tunnel
underneath the skin and not be obvious to the naked eye.
Sunglasses block UV light and therefore help to prevent cancer in
skin around your eyes.
PEOPLE WITH DARK SKIN STILL NEED TO FOLLOW SUN
PROTECTION PRECAUTIONS: Skin pigment reduces the amount of UV
rays that pass into skin, but it does not prevent sunburns or
SAFETY OF SUN SCREENS: We do not know how safe sun screens
are because they have never been tested systematically. For example,
oxybenzone in sun screens has been shown to be absorbed into the
bloodstream in humans, and to disrupt hormones in animals. A critique
of 1700 sun screens was conducted by the Environmental Working Group.
Their findings, with brand name listings and recommendations for 2011,
are available at http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen
SPF: Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on sun screen labels tells
you how long it takes to burn your skin underneath that sun screen.
It does not tell you how much protection you are getting. A SPF 30
sun screen blocks 97 percent of UVB rays, compared to an SPF 15
sun screen that blocks 93 percent. No sun screen blocks all UV rays.
Broad-spectrum sun screens provide some protection against
UVA and UVB rays, but the SPF (sun-protection factor) rating
refers only to the level of protection from UVB rays. The FDA
just ruled that as of the summer of 2012, sun screen labels that
claim to be “broad spectrum” must protect against UVA as well as
UVB. The new rules also prohibit any sun screen from claiming
that it prevents skin cancer or aging because no sun screen
blocks all UV rays. Sun screens cannot claim that they last for
more than two hours, unless proof of longer protection is submitted
to the FDA.
ZINC AND TITANIUM ARE SAFEST: The safest and most
effective sun screens contain zinc or titanium. These sunscreens
are generally thicker and whiter. You do not need to reapply
these as long as there is a visible white paste on your skin.
RE-APPLY SUN SCREENS OFTEN: Many sun screens contain the
filters octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3 or octocrylene,
which reflect ultra violet rays away from your skin to protect it
only when they are on the surface of the skin. When these sun
screens are absorbed and the skin is not re-coated, they increase
skin production of harmful oxidants that can cause skin aging and
cancer (Free Radical Biology & Medicine, September 2009).
MOST SUN SCREENS BURN YOUR EYES: To avoid getting sun
screens in your eyes, wash your hands after each application and
do not apply sun screen above your eyes. Use a hat whenever you
can, covering your forehead and the top of your ears.