Prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. And, information is power. Today’s guest blogger, Jacob Levine, gives us the low-down on which sun rays are the most dangerous and several ways we can naturally protect our skin.
Every year in the U.S., millions of people are diagnosed with skin cancer. The number of yearly skin cancer occurrences actually surpasses that of lung, breast, colon, and postulate cancers combined! What’s even more troubling is the leading cause of skin cancer, UV rays, can be easily avoided with the active employment of some simple protective measures.
The sun emits three ranges of ultraviolet rays that are harmful to the skin: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVB are the rays that actually burn the skin; they damage the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, and are the leading cause of most types of skin cancers. UVA rays on the other hand, affect the layer of skin below the epidermis, the dermis, and are most known for causing long-term cell damage, and pre-mature aging. UVC rays are the most deadly of the three, but luckily they are blocked by the ozone layer, providing little threat.
1. Choosing the Right Sunscreen
When buying sunscreen, there are two main factors you should consider: SPF and UV Protection.
SPF, the sun protection factor, is a measure of the UVB protection offered, and an indication of how often reapplication is necessary. Have you ever wondered how much UVB protection your sunscreen actually offers?
- SPF 15 provides 93% protection against UVB rays
- SPF 30 provides 97% protection against UVB rays
- SPF 50 provides 98% protection against UVB rays
As shown, the marginal UVB protection decreases inversely to the SPF ratings. Effective protection begins around SPF 15 and ends around SPF 50, any SPF greater than 50 isn’t really providing much additional benefit.
Okay, so I bought SPF 50 I’m safe now right? Well no, new studies have indicated that UVA rays can actually be just as damaging to skin, if not worse, than UVB rays are. Unfortunately, the FDA is still in the process of developing scale and testing regulations for UVA protection, but what you can do is avoid sunscreens not labeled broad spectrum, as these are the only one’s that provide some degree of protection against UVA rays.
Of course, choosing the right sunscreen isn’t only factor you need to keep in mind; if you don’t reapply, the damage done can be just as harmful as if you had never worn sunscreen in the first place!
Reapplication standards depend on the variables of skin tone, sunlight intensity, and volume of sunscreen applied. For calculation purposes, SPF acts as a multiplier; based on the calculation of these dynamics, if your skin were to burn in 10 minutes and the SPF is 30, your body should be able to withstand 300 minutes of sunlight without receiving a burn. However, these factors are nearly impossible to quantify, and metrics such as sunlight intensity and volume of application are highly variable.
Rule of thumb is that you should apply about one ounce of sunscreen to your body, roughly every two hours. It is important to apply at least the minimum, as under-application exponentially decreases effectiveness.
2. Keeping a Healthy Immune System
One of the immune system’s key responsibilities is spotting abnormal foreign cells among our healthy ones. Without a healthy immune system your body is unable to sufficiently seek and destroy intruders, such as cancerous melanoma cells. While, sunlight provides certain benefits like Vitamin D, harmful UV radiation acts as an immune suppressant making it more difficult for your body to fight off disease and growing cancer cells.
To keep your immune system running smoothly, it is important to eat a diet heavy in antioxidants. An antioxidant-rich diet consists of dark leafy greens, tree nuts, fruits and berries, and certain types of fish and dairy products. As far as liquids go, while water is always a healthy choice: wine, coffee, and certain teas offer some great immune-protective benefits. Research shows that, for every cup of caffeinated coffee you consume your risk of developing Melanoma lessens by 5%. Green and black teas are fortified with vital skin-cancer inhibiting proteins that protect your body from invasive growths.
3. Early Detection
The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is through prevention, but early detection is your second wave of defense; the earlier you receive treatment, the better the chance of survival you will have. There are 5 rules that have become the standard for recognizing potential cancers growths, known as the ABCDEs of Melanoma.
- A: Asymmetry – Malignant skin growths are not symmetrical like benign growth. If one side differs from the other this a potential cause of concern.
- B: Border – Benign growths have smooth borders, cancerous growths do not.
- C: Color – Melanoma growths can be shades of red, blue, or white, unlike normal moles, and are often multicolored.
- D: Diameter – Cancerous growths are generally bigger than benign growths, roughly larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- E: Evolving – Infectious growths often change over time, benign growths do not.
While, these standards have been renowned as the go-to inspection mechanism for skin cancer prevention, not all types of skin cancer conform to these rules. Some are smaller, symmetrical, or vary in color, so whenever a growth causes you concern make sure to visit your dermatologist.
Now that you have the facts, there is no reason for you to become another statistic. These tips require little conscious effort, and can protect you for years to come.
About the Author
Jacob Levine is an online blogger working with Dr. Seiger, a cosmetic dermatologist who has been practicing for over 25 years. With tons of experience offering skin cancer prevention advice, as well as cancer screenings, Dr. Seiger can help. Visit his site today for more information.
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