The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Reducing your risk for skin cancer includes covering yourself with high SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreens, wearing protective clothing and avoiding midday sun.
The sun does have certain health benefits. It can enhance your mood, protect against certain diseases and boost your level of vitamin D. The key is finding a balanced level of sun exposure — a common ground between getting enough, but not too much.
Experts suggest the following:
- Use sunscreen. Make sure the sunscreen protects against UV radiation.
- Do not stay out in the sun for a long time, especially when the sun is at its strongest (mid-morning to late afternoon).
- Do not use sunlamps and tanning booths.
Exposure to UV radiation from sunlight can lead to:
- Sunburn — the most obvious and most immediate sign of too much sun. Your skin will be red and tender, and it may swell and blister. It’s possible to run a fever and feel nauseous from a burn.
- Premature wrinkling and uneven skin pigmentation — too much sun exposure will cause your skin’s texture to change. The skin can become tough and leathery, and you may notice more wrinkles. In addition, the sun can cause sun spots — discolorations in the skin’s tone that may be brown, red, yellow, or gray.
- Skin cancer — the most serious result of too much sun. Check your skin regularly for any changes in the appearance of moles or freckles.
About sun-protective clothing:
- Choose hats and clothing with a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). This is the amount of the sun’s UV rays being absorbed by your clothing before they get to your skin. Some clothes have a UPF rating. A rating of 50+ offers a lot of sun protection.
- Choose clothing made from tightly-woven fabric. This will absorb more of the sun’s UV rays. Darker colors absorb rays better than light colors. Hold clothes up to the sun to see how much light comes through. Clothes that do not let much light through will be more protective. For example, a dark denim shirt offers more protection than a white t-shirt. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants will give more protection.
- Wear a wide-brim hat and sunglasses. A hat with a six inch brim all around is best. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
Vitamin D from the Sun:
The sun is believed to provide about 80% of your vitamin D supply. But even the sun’s benefits have some considerations. The sun can create 10,000 units of vitamin D within 10 minutes for people with fair skin, but it may take 5-10 times longer in people with darker skin.
UVB rays are also weak and can be easily blocked by clouds, smog, and glass windows. During certain times of the year, in far north and far south regions in the United States (like Washington state and Vermont), between November and February, the sun’s UVB rays do not even reach the Earth’s surface. There is far less or no production of vitamin D during these times of year. Vitamin supplementation may be necessary during these times of year to avoid a vitamin D deficiency.
Consult the UV Index:
If you are concerned about getting too much sun, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service put out a UV Index — a daily report on the UV radiation levels in different areas in the country. Here is how to interpret the number:
- 0 to 2 — low danger from the sun’s UV rays for the average person.
- 3 to 5 — moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
- 6 to 7 — high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
- 8-10 — very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
- 11+ — extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
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American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org .
Dennis LK, et al. Sunscreen use and the risk for melanoma: a quantitative review. Ann Intern Med . 2003; 139(12): 966-78.
Get in on the trend. The Skin Cancer Foundation website. Available at: http://www.skincan…. Accessed May 29, 2012.
Skin cancer: prevention. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydocto…. Updated February 2011. Accessed May 29, 2012.
United States Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/ .
*This article was encapsulated from information located at the iHerb Health Library: http://healthlibrary.epnet.com; Accessed June 8, 2012; by Assia Mortensen