It’s hard to think about applying sunscreen when we live in the often overcast Willamette Valley, we’re young and resilient, and society places so much value on that “summer glow.” But none of these facts should deter you from taking caution when you’re going to be spending a prolonged amount of time in the sun, especially as the weather starts to get nicer.
The fact is, skin cancer is much more prevalent than you might expect, especially among young people. Take for example some statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation that might put the gravity of the threat of skin disease into perspective.
In the last 30 years, more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
One in five Americans will be diagnosed with the disease some time in their lives
About 90 percent of melanoma cases are the result of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, which comes from the sun.
It’s pretty clear to see that the seemingly harmless act of “soaking up some rays,” can actually have insidious consequences for your health. And according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common cancer for young people 15-29 years old.”
People within our age range tend to think of themselves as invincible, and often think of laying out in the sun as a fun way to spend an afternoon while getting a nice tan. However, the stats indicate that melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is showing up on the skin of many of these young adults, even though with a few simple precautions, the cancer is largely avoidable.
In order to save your skin, take these tips into consideration, even when the weather makes the sunshine seem mild:
Put on some sunscreen
This seems like the most obvious step, but it’s also a crucial one. This doesn’t mean you need to pay a load of money for the highest SPF you can find–we don’t live in Australia. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a sunscreen with SPF 15 will block 93 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, while a sunscreen with an SPF 30 will block 97 percent.
However, this will only be true if you apply a sufficient amount. One squirt of a spray-on sunblock will probably not be effective. Also, it’s not enough to apply sunscreen on one side of your body. Have someone help you apply to your back. You should also reapply every two hours for maximum protection.
Don’t go to tanning beds
Seriously, don’t do this. As a dermatologist once excitedly told my pasty-white mother, “You are so pale! Good for you! You have some of the healthiest skin I’ve ever seen!” Although this offended my mother because all she heard was “you are so pale,” the well-intentioned doctor was right–the less time you spend in UV rays, the more healthy your skin will be. Therefore, putting yourself in a little box where you are blasted with these rays for a while is a big skin care no-no.
According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, “using tanning beds before the age of 30 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.” Tanning salons often advertise that you need to tan in order to get your dose of vitamin D. But, as the MRF points out, “all necessary vitamin D can be found in a healthy diet or from a vitamin supplement. Don’t risk getting skin cancer in order to get a vitamin that you can easily get by eating some vegetables.
Opt for the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
According to the American Skin Association, the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and therefore these are the hours in which to avoid the sun altogether. However, because it’s no fun to stay inside when we have one of our rare sunny days in Corvallis, go ahead and just find a shady spot where you’ll be mostly shielded from ultraviolet radiation. Just because you’re trying to be more conscious of your skin health doesn’t mean you can’t hang outside with your friends. It just means taking a few more minutes to make sure you aren’t harming your skin cells. Make healthy skin the new “summer glow.”
The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff.