It feels good to get sun and people like to have a certain amount of color to look healthy. Unfortunately, there are risks inherent with such activities. Even those who fully protect themselves are subject to skin cancer. It is not true that people who have darker skin are less likely to get cancer; it is a misconception, a myth, that only pale-skinned, fair haired and light eyed people must be more careful. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US with nearly 5 million treated every year. Skin cancer can catch up to us. Often it is caused by our early years of sun bathing and then decades later the cancer occurs. Squamous-cell carcinoma can take up to 20 years to develop and usually goes where we got the sun. So, how does one protect oneself?
- Tanning beds- people who use them before age 35 have a 75% increase of melanoma! This includes cancer on the legs and other body parts that were not covered. It might be good to avoid tanning beds.
- If one must go outside, use sunscreen and protective UPF clothing and wide brimmed hats. Anything more than 50 is usually not all that effective, however. Neutrogena has outstanding products.
- Broad based, spectrum formulas containing titanium and zinc oxide and that which is bolstered by antioxidants are reliable.
- If you notice any spots that do not look right or are irregular, get to the skin doctor right away. There are many forms of treatment that work quite well if done early on.
In the great scheme of things, look at someone who is older who has been spending significant time in the sun. In all likelihood, that person’s skin – do not forget this is our largest organ- is dry and that person probably looks older than they really are. Is getting a tan really worth looking worse as you age and increasing the risk for skin cancer which when treated can make the skin or your appearance even worse (at best) and that is if you are lucky?