We tend to spend more time outdoors during the summer, especially with our kids. But the sun’s warm rays transmit danger in the form of skin cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. The ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays begins to damage unprotected skin from childhood. It results in an increased risk of skin cancer in adulthood, and the destruction of collagen and elastin in our skin which causes thinning, wrinkling and skin spots (texture and pigment irregularities).
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Skin is the body’s largest organ and our greatest defense against the environment. As such, it’s important to protect it from the sun’s damaging rays.
Following is a true/false quiz to test your Sun Protection Factor (SPF) IQ:
1. SPF is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to protect my skin from cancer.
False. SPF measures only UVB protection. Light from the sun contains different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. UVA is most closely associated with cancer and aging, whereas UVB rays primarily cause burning.
2. If I use sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” then I will be protected from UVA and UVB.
False. “Broad spectrum” is not regulated. Read the labels and look for products containing avobenzone or helioplex. The best overall blockers also contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
3. I can avoid burning by developing a good base tan.
False. Research on one of the most lethal skin cancers, melanoma, shows that overall sun exposure since childhood causes an increase in cancer risk.
4. Avoiding beach vacations will lower my risk of cancer.
False. Where you live is the most important factor in assessing the risk of skin cancer. Altitude, sunny days and the effects on the ozone are the most significant variables.
5. The windshield on my car blocks ultraviolet rays.
False. UVA penetrates through glass and damages skin not protected with sunscreen.
6. When it’s sunny, I need to protect my skin from sun exposure between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
True. But, even when it’s cloudy, we get significant exposure to UVA. And, unless clothing is densely-woven or is treated to be sun-blocking, we still accumulate damaging radiation. A t-shirt tends to provide an SPF of 5 to 8. It’s best to apply sunscreen before getting dressed in the morning and before applying makeup to get the best protection.
For optimum protection, apply at least a shot glass full of sunscreen a half an hour before exposure. Reapply as specified on the label depending on your activity level (swimming and sweating reduces the effects of sunscreen). Keep sunscreen with you. Small sunscreen sticks, sprays, wipes and sunscreen contained in makeup products are easy to carry in your pocket, purse, backpack or car.