Guest post by Reyzan Shali, MD
It’s summertime, and for most people, that means fun in the sun. Now I’m all for having fun, but I wanted to share some important information about how exposure to the sun can ruin the fun. In my years as a friend, sister, mother, and family care doctor, I have heard a lot of comments about the sun, and more specifically, about getting tan.
Stories people have told me
I used to rub olive oil all over my skin and then go sit in the sun.
I used to apply baby oil before I lay in the sun and had a shinier tan as a result.
I grew up in Southern California and baked myself for years from lying on the beach.
I went to the beach whenever I could, and who remembered to apply sunscreen?
What? You’ve never gone to get a tan before?
I don’t like tanning; I love tanning!
Things I have been told about my tan (or lack thereof)
Please cover your legs, or get a tan.
You know, you would look better tanned.
The impact of the sun, and artificial sun in the form of a tanning bed, can cause skin cancer. I know that cancer isn’t fun to talk about, but I feel it’s important to do so, especially when cancer is preventable. That’s the reason I published my book, Teaming Up Against Cancer, sharing ways to prevent common cancers by paying more attention to what you eat and how we live.
In this guest blog for howhealthcareworks.net, I’ll share skin cancer statistics and facts, and the two things you can do to significantly reduce your chances of developing it.
Stats and Facts (Source: American Academy of Dermatology)
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.
Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form.
Two things you can do to prevent skin cancer:
Avoid the Sun
This isn’t a blanket ban on the sun, because you need direct sunlight exposure for your body to create vitamin D. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium and phosphate from the foods you eat, which is important for healthy bones and muscles. However, there is too much of a good thing, so do your best to avoid sunburns.
Take precautions when you go outside, such as wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 (higher is better). Apply sunscreen daily, all year long, in any weather. Even on gloomy, cloudy days, 70-80% of the sun’s rays—especially long-spectrum UVA rays—can penetrate clouds and fog. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing items such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and sunglasses with UV protection. You can also avoid sunburns and painful peeling by spending time inside or in the shade between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Ban The Tan
Another thing you can do to prevent skin cancer is give tanning salons a wide berth.
Numerous studies show that exposure to UV radiation causes both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Yet millions of people go out of their way to seek what they regard as a healthy and attractive complexion by visiting tanning salons.
But tanning salons are far from healthy.
A review of 12 studies of more than nine thousand cases of non-melanoma skin cancer concluded the risk of cancer was significantly increased by the use of indoor tanning. Tanning beds are dangerous because they have much higher UV radiation levels than natural sunlight.
The truth is that tanning beds are downright unhealthy and carcinogenic. UV radiation from tanning beds has been linked to DNA damage and increased carcinogenesis. UV radiation can be carcinogenic without the presence of a sunburn.
I say love your skin the way it is.
I don’t mean to scare you away from the outdoors this summer, but I urge you to prepare before you and your family venture into the sun. Remember to don a hat and wear breathable, protective clothing. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and get in your daily dose of vitamin D the natural way without a tanning bed! By taking proper precautions, you can focus on having fun while staying healthy.