Every year, there are 63,000 new cases of and 9,000 deaths from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. A new CDC study shows that the majority of Americans are not using sunscreen regularly to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
In fact, fewer than 15% of men and fewer than 30% of women reported using sunscreen regularly on their face and other exposed skin when outside for more than 1 hour. Many women report that they regularly use sunscreen on their faces but not on other exposed skin.
What is important to remember is that the sun produces dangerous UV rays, whether it’s sunny or a cloudy day.
UV rays, which can penetrate cloud cover, damage the DNA of skin cells, which causes the melanin in the body to rush to that site and try to compensate for the damage. Melanin is responsible for the pigment (color) of your skin. So when this happens, the skin changes color … pink or red for some, tan or brown for others. Whichever color your skin becomes (sunburn or suntan), both are a result of damaged skin cell DNA caused by ultraviolet rays.
Sometimes this damage affects certain genes that control how skin cells grow and divide. If these genes no longer work properly, the affected cells may become cancer cells.
Sun Protection Strategies That Work
- Use broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ to protect any exposed skin.
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear sunglasses, a hat that covers your ears, and other clothes to protect skin.
- Sunscreen works best when used with shade or clothes, and it must be re-applied every two hours and after swimming, sweating and toweling off.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention