In the US, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer every year. And each year, these cases continue to rise in numbers. In Australia, melanoma is the third most common cancer. In 2011, 521 people were recorded to have died of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Australia’s location exposes the population to harsh UV rays, meaning they are 4 times more likely to develop skin cancer than any other cancer, and it has the highest rate in the world. The emphasis on outdoor activities and the tropical latitude contribute to this rising number of skin cancer cases in Australia.
Preventing Skin Cancer
Although you can acquire skin cancer from constant exposure to the heat of the sun, you can avoid it and minimise the effects. Here are several ways to prevent the scorching sun from claiming your skin.
#1 Avoid the sun during 10am – 3pm
The most dangerous time of the day is between 10 am to 3 pm, when the UV rays are at their peak (especially during late spring and early summer). Avoiding outdoor activities at these hours can minimise the risk of skin cancer. Seek the shade and avoid close contact with water, sand, and snow because they reflect the sun more.
Only go out when the sun is not that hot or when you’re armed with protective clothing.
#2 Use sun protective hats and clothes
Skin damage can occur in as little as 15 min exposure to UV rays without any protection. Damaging rays even can go between the fibres of the clothes you are wearing. How sure are you that your clothes can protect you? The kind of fabric and colour matters.
Thick and dark clothes can best protect you from the sun rather than thin and light-coloured clothes. Also long-sleeved tops and long pants protect your arms and legs. Although wearing thick clothes during the peak summer can be uncomfortable, it can be beneficial in the long run. If you can’t stand layering clothes, at least use protective and wide brimmed hats or carry an umbrella with you.
A hat with at least 2 to 3 inches brim is the best length to protect your face from the heat, but an umbrella can protect most of your body.
#3 Apply sunscreen
Sun protection formula of 15 is the least measure to protect your skin from the dangerous rays. The higher the SPF the more it can cover your skin, but it is not always the case. Sometimes SPF 50 can work better than an SPF of 100 if applied properly to skin.
Children of six months and above can use sunscreens. Many lotions and creams already have sunscreens but if you can’t get out of intense exposure to sun due to work you need to use stronger sunscreens which are resistant to water or sweat. Apply it 30 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours.
Sunscreen for sports are often the best to use since they withstand sweat and activities. But using sunscreen doesn’t provide you with complete protection. Choosing your clothing well will help push away the sun’s harmful rays and reduce the chances of skin cancer.
#4 Avoid artificial tanning
Tanning beds and sunlamps emitting UV rays can harm your skin and cause skin cancer. The lights they emit are 2 to 5 times greater than natural sunlight. Other effects include eye damage, premature aging and immune suppression.
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer is the most common case of using tanning beds. Each year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the US. People who use tanning beds between the ages of 18 and 30 tend to have a greater chance of developing melanoma. Ultraviolet radiation, whether it comes from the sun or indoor tanning, is not safe.
Recently, a 27 year old woman went viral after she posted a photo of herself on Facebook showing a graphic result of tanning and skin cancer. Tawny Willoughby admitted to the use of tanning beds four to five times a week or laying out in the sun to get the perfect tan. She is now getting treatment but her graphic selfie has opened up the world to the effects of tanning.
Keeping yourself hydrated may help keep you healthy but it can do much more than that for your skin. Hydrating the skin helps it remain flexible and it allows the protective barrier to remain intact. The best way to hydrate is by drinking plenty of water and fruit juices. Soda, coffee and alcohol may not be the best way to hydrate since they are diuretic and may draw water out of the system.
Further, drinking water and staying hydrated may prevent other cancers. Staying hydrated may minimise the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50% and breast cancer as well.
#6 Shade your eyes
The skin under your eyes is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Once it is exposed to the sun, it may be affected much faster than any other part of the body. The skin around the eyes may need more care. Oversized sunglasses can protect your eyes as well as the skin around your eyes.
#7 Use lip balm with SPF
Your lips are also sensitive and they may need protecting from the sun. Using lip balm with a high SPF may help provide coverage and prevent your puckers from getting too many rays.
#8 Consult a doctor when sunburned
Sunburn can be painful but it may signal the start of something much worse. Aspirin and ibuprofen is often recommended together with extra doses of water. Moisturiser may also stave off the burning sensation. But if it’s severe, head to the doctor right away for added advice.
Also, get your skin check up once a year. It never hurts to be extra careful.
#9 Get vitamin D
We have this misconception that we can only get vitamin D by getting ourselves exposed in the sun. Vitamin D is actually available from different foods and supplements. It can be found in fish as well.
#10 Don’t rely on clouds
Even during cloudy days the sun still emits rays that may be harmful to the skin. Most people forgo sunscreen when they think it’s cloudy. Thing is, you still need to apply sunscreen since you can still get sunburned during a cloudy day when you stay too long under the sun.
#11 Adjust the blinds
You might feel positive and bright with the blinds drawn up in your office or at home but the sun’s reflection may affect you even if you are in an enclosed space. This advice doesn’t mean to make you paranoid, but the sun rays can penetrate even through your car windshield and windows.
So, adjust the blinds and your car seat so you aren’t sitting directly in the sun.
#12 Don’t rely on make up
Many women would be guilty of this one. They would often forgo sunscreen since their foundation and cream boasts of SPF protection. These products can be truthful, however most lab tests use a thick amount of these products. No woman would ever lather foundation and creams as thick as they do in lab tests.
So instead of relying on foundation, make sure still you apply sunscreen to your face before you cover it with your favourite make up.
We mentioned the tips above but some people may need to exercise extra caution. These are the people who have a higher risk factors than others:
- Those who work outside regularly. This includes construction site jobs, beach lifeguards, fieldwork, etc. They have a higher risk of getting harmful rays thus they need more protection.
- Those with light features. Those with pale skin may have more problems with sun protection. They have more sensitive skin too.
- Those with sensitive skin. Some people are more sensitive than others. Others may burn easily when exposed to the sun while some may endure it a bit longer.
- Those with moles. Some people with moles may have a slightly higher risk of skin cancer. Make sure to keep these covered under direct sunlight and use sunscreen.
- Those with a history of skin cancer. Those who have a history of skin cancer in their family or themselves may also have a higher risk of acquiring it.
- Those who frequently use tanning beds.
Skin and Nutrition
A good diet may help in preventing melanoma and in strengthening the skin. For example, curcumin found in turmeric may help induce self destruction of melanoma skin cancer cells. The compound called carotenoids found in carrots, oranges, collard, kale, sweet potato and tomatoes can also help protect the skin from harmful UV rays of the sun. This is true especially if combined with vitamin E supplements.
Other diet tips include:
- Avoid meat products containing nitrates. They may increase likelihood of cancer.
- Eliminate food with aflatoxin.
- Eat foods with plenty of beta-glucans.
- Ensure healthy intake of vitamin E and C.
You can fight the sun’s harmful rays by being careful and following the tips above. You can defeat skin cancer by doing the right thing and eating the right thing.