You’ve been smearing sunscreen on every summer for years, I hope. So, what exactly is an SPF? SPF stands for sun protection factor. The recommended SPF for sunscreen is at least 15, and if you burn easily, use a cream with the SPF of 30, according to the National Cancer Institute.
You are supposed to put on sunscreen thirty minutes before going out into the sun, so the cream can soak into your skin. And, you are supposed to put more sunscreen on every two hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming.
Don’t think that you can only get sunburned by lying in a swimsuit by the pool. Sunlight can also be strong when it is reflected by pavement, water, sand, snow and ice. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are actually stronger at higher elevations, like on the mountains than at the beach.
What is the main reason for wearing sunscreen? To prevent damaging sunburn and skin cancer.
Even if you are not out in the sun often now, you have an increased chance of skin cancer If you have experienced a severe, blistering sunburn in the past. It is the total amount of sun exposure over a lifetime that causes a greater risk of a serious form of skin cancer, melanoma. Skin cancer can invade the normal tissue nearby. Also, skin cancer can spread throughout the body. When skin cancer cells do spread, they break away from the original growth and enter blood vessels or lymph vessels. The cancer cells may be found in nearby lymph nodes. The cancer cells can also spread to other tissues and attach there to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.
People who have pale skin that burns easily in the sun, or who have many freckles have an increased chance of skin cancer. Medical conditions or medicines, such as some antibiotics, hormones, or antidepressants, that make skin more sensitive to the sun or that suppress the immune system increase the chance of melanoma skin cancer.
This summer, give yourself a self-exam to look for signs of skin cancer. Not every mole or skin tag or freckle you find is cancerous, so there is no need to worry needlessly. But you are the one wearing your skin, so it’s natural for you to give yourself a self-exam to check changes which might be important.
See the skin exam guidelines and information from the National Cancer Institute.
Your family physician, an internist, or a dermatologist can conduct an exam for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment. Doing a quick skin exam for yourself regularly is one way to take charge of your own health.
Don’t forget that sunscreen.
For questions about cancer, call 1-800-4-CANCER, the National Cancer Institute.