Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action on the topic of skin cancer, and it touches on nearly every aspect of skin cancer and sun safety that has been preached for years. It’s wonderful that it’s getting the official attention it deserves! Here are the key takeaways that families need to be aware of:
FACT: Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and most cases are preventable.
As many as 90 percent of melanomas (the deadliest form of skin cancer) are estimated to be caused by UV exposure? That is a very high number, but if we look at this figure from a positive standpoint, it suggests that 90 percent of melanomas can be prevented by reducing intentional UV exposure (and increasing sun protection!).
FACT: Medical treatment for skin cancer creates substantial health care costs for individuals, families and the nation.
The estimated costs for skin cancer treatments are currently $8.1 billion, which is a staggering amount of money that could be used for more enjoyable and productive things, like education, travel, home improvements, recreational activities … you get the idea.
FACT: No evidence exists to suggest that indoor tanning is safer than tanning outdoors
None. It just doesn’t exist. Many tanning salon owners will use the defense that tanning indoors is a regulated amount of exposure, whereas tanning outdoors is not, so it’s safer. You also may have heard the argument that tanning indoors provides you with a “base tan” that will protect against sunburn. Both of these arguments are false, and here’s why: First, no tan is ever safe. A tan is your body’s response to skin damage, so if you’re tanning indoors or outdoors, neither option is a safe option. And second, indoor tanning provides intense, shorter spurts of UV exposure, that can be more powerful than sunshine. The Surgeon General’s call to action mentions studies that have shown (depending on the device used) the amount of UV rays being omitted from a tanning device can be anywhere from four to 13 times more than what someone would be exposed to at mid-day in summer in the District of Columbia.
FACT: With adequate support and a unified approach, comprehensive, community-wide efforts to prevent skin cancer CAN work.
So, what can you do to prevent skin cancer developing in yourself and others? For starters, if you’re a parent, the sun protection habits of your children and future generations will be largely dependent on you. Your attitudes and behaviors regarding sun safety will be passed on to and likely practiced by your children, so what example to you want to set? Here are four great starting points if you haven’t started already:
- Wear protective clothing: Sun Protective Clothing is a great and convenient way to protect yourself and your family from damaging and deadly UV radiation.
- Seek the shade: During peak mid-day hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), the sun’s radiation is the most powerful, and potentially deadly, so seek shade during these times in particular. Because shade doesn’t block all UV radiation however (including scattered or reflected UV rays), this method should be combined with other methods, including wearing sun-protective clothing, UV-protective sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Use sunscreen: Sunscreen should be used in addition to wearing protective clothing and seeking shade. We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (to protect against both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to apply a good amount at least 30 minutes prior to exposure to ensure proper absorption time. Keep in mind this should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Avoid indoor tanning and outdoor sunbathing: Both excessive/unprotected sun exposure and indoor tanning are associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancer.