Skin cancer, premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and other problems can result from prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Despite all of the research available, many adults still misunderstand the truth about sun exposure. One-third of 1,000 adults in the United States failed a simple quiz on skin cancer and sun safety, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
In a press release, board-certified dermatologist Kenneth J. Tomecki, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, says, “These results amazed us and show that misperceptions regarding skin cancer and sun exposure are still prevalent.” “As dermatologists who see firsthand the effect that skin cancer, especially melanoma—the deadliest type of skin cancer—has on our patients and their families, it’s alarming to see that so many people still don’t know how to protect themselves from UV exposure.”
So, without sounding like a broken record (Put on sunscreen!), here’s what you should do.
Seriously, just do it!
We’d love to help clear up four of the most common misunderstandings. Continue reading to learn the simple details about sun exposure that many people overlook, as well as what you should be aware of.
According to Laurel Geraghty, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Oregon, “going in the shade is more than just convenient.” She recommends wearing sunscreen and seeking shade wherever possible, noting that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“A lot of people don’t consider shade to be a viable choice. We’ll put on our sunscreen and spend the whole day at the beach in the scorching heat. Even if we use sunscreen religiously, UV light can still penetrate our skin, according to Dr. Geraghty. “Sitting in the shade eliminates a lot of the guesswork. We can also cover ourselves with sunscreen, but we can also cool down and reduce the amount of ultraviolet light that reaches our skin’s surface.”
Wearing sun-protective clothing provides additional protection. Skirts, a wide-brimmed hat, UV-protective shades, and/or a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt may make a significant difference.
A base tan is a concept of having a tan from indoor tanning before going out in the sun to help avoid sunburn. According to a 2005 report, a base tan is equal to SPF 3 or 4. Dermatologists, on the other hand, consistently advise that you use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Moving on to the next stage, even if you don’t burn, tanning is harmful to your skin and can cause skin cancer.
Dr. Geraghty says, “I still equate having a base tan to smoking.” “Every time you smoke a cigarette, you are harming your lungs and your body. [A base tan] is akin to saying, “Hey, I’m going to smoke a lot of cigarettes this week so that I don’t cough when I smoke more cigarettes next week.” It’s just not a smart idea because having a base tan damages our skin, and then we’ll go out and really harm our skin.”
“Tan skin is skin that has been damaged,” says Dr. Geraghty. “It’s displaying symptoms of sun damage from your exposure to the sun or damage from ultraviolet rays, whether from indoor tanning or the sun.” She goes on to say that this damage affects our skin cells’ DNA, increases our risk of skin cancer and pre-cancer, and leads to aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines, sunspots, and sagging skin.
According to Dr. Geraghty, “Depending on the research you read, somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of all skin cancers are the direct product of ultraviolet light exposure, whether from the sun or from an indoor tanning bed or tanning booth.” “This means that simply protecting our skin from too much sunlight could prevent 80 to 90% of all skin cancers. Avoiding sunburns and tans by using sunscreen, caps, and other protective gear, as well as finding cover and avoiding tanning beds.”
Tanning beds, according to Dr. Geraghty, are particularly harmful because they expose parts of the body that aren’t used to sun exposure. “I often diagnose melanoma, or basal cell skin cancer, on the breast, under the arm, in the groin, or in the buttocks—places where the sun doesn’t even shine. And a lot of those come from tanning bed exposures because we’re putting powerful light on parts of the skin that wouldn’t be subjected to much ultraviolet in the first place.”