The weather is heating up and with that comes vacations spent at the lake and the beach and hot summer days spent at the pool. A common thought many people have is to build a “base tan” before these summertime activities that are mostly spent outdoors and in the sun.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the idea of getting a “base tan” to protect the skin is a common misconception and there is no such thing as a protective, safe or healthy tan. They further explain that prolonged ultraviolet (UV) exposure can cause skin cancer as well as accelerated aging of the skin (which includes age spots, lines, and wrinkles) to everyone, even those with dark skin tones or who never get sunburned. A recent and alarming study showed that about 65% of melanomas (the most dangerous type of skin cancer) and 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked with sun exposure. Perry Robins, MD, the President of the Skin Cancer Foundation, states, “Whether obtained by lying out in the sun or using a tanning bed, a tan damages your skin. A tan is the body’s response to damaged DNA in the skin cells- the skin darkens in order to prevent more damage but the person’s risk of skin cancer is already increased”.
It is critical to avoid both tans and sunburns since both are associated with greater risks of skin cancer, especially melanoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends ten skin cancer prevention strategies to remember this summer and all year long when UV exposure is unavoidable:
1.Seek the Shade, especially between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
2. Do NOT Burn. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had five or more sunburns in their lifetime.
3. Avoid Tanning, both outside in the sun and UV tanning booths.
4. Cover Up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
5. Use a Broad Spectrum (UVA/UVB) Sunscreen with and SPF of at least 15 or higher everyday. For extended outdoor activities, use a sunscreen that is water-resistant and broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) with an SPF of 30 or higher.
6. Apply 1 Ounce (2 Tablespoons) of Sunscreen to Your Entire Body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessively sweating.
7. Keep Newborns Out of the Sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over six months of age.
8. The only safe tan is one that comes out of a bottle. You can purchase self tanners at any local drug or convenient store.
9. Examine Your Skin head-to-toe every month for any usual spots or moles.
10. See Your Doctor for a professional skin exam once a year.