The Best Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun
Skin cancer is a highly preventable disease, yet one out of every five people in the United States will develop it during their lifetime. It most often occurs in basal and squamous cells in the outer layer of your skin, usually on sun-exposed areas like your face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of your hands. If detected early enough, this type of skin cancer is easily treated, but you can avoid it altogether by following these simple steps.
Slather on sunscreen.
It’s not true the majority of dangerous skin damage is done before the age of 18, as many people believe. In fact, as you age, your cells aren’t as capable of repairing damage caused by sun exposure and the cancer-fighting ability of your immune system naturally weakens. That means it’s never too late to use sunscreen. Just remember these tips.
Use enough. The American Cancer Society says if you’re average size, you should apply about 1 ounce of sunscreen, the amount it would take to fill a shot glass, on your arms, legs, neck, and face.
Apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
Reapply at least every two hours, and more often if you sweat or swim.
Wearing sunscreen doesn’t give you a free pass to spend as much time as you like in the sun. Limit exposure especially during the middle of the day.
Perform a self-exam.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you give yourself a head-to-toe checkup every month, looking for new or changing moles or anything unusual that might be cancerous or precancerous. Be thorough, using a mirror to examine those hard-to-reach areas. In addition, go to a dermatologist every year for a checkup, more often if you find something suspicious.
Nix indoor tanning.
That year-round bronzed look can be deadly. It increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, even if you never experience a sunburn.
Limit eye damage.
The most delicate skin on your body is around your eyes, with up to 10 percent of all skin cancers found on the eyelid. But you must also protect the eye, itself, from the sun’s harmful rays. They can cause cancers within your eye, as well as vision-stealing cataracts and the incurable eye disease, macular degeneration.
Buy sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Choose large lenses that offer protection to the sides of your eyes and fit close to your face.
Some nail salons use ultraviolet light to speed-dry gel nail polish, exposing your hands to the same harmful radiation emitted by tanning beds. Researchers admit the lamps they tested varied in wattage, so they calculated that an average of 11 sessions under the light would raise cancer risk. In actuality, it could take anywhere from eight to 208 minutes to deliver a damaging dose of radiation.
Ask your salon what type of lamp they use, and if you decide to proceed with a gel manicure, put sunscreen on your hands or wear UV-protective gloves that cover all but your fingertips.
Try some nutritional defense.
Bulk up your diet with smart menu choices and high-powered nutrients to help make your skin even more resistant to skin cancer.
This trace mineral acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals. It may also rev up immune cells to help keep tumors from growing. Good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, canned light tuna, cod, and light meat turkey.
These naturally occurring pigments give red, yellow, or orange color to foods like tomatoes, carrots, and corn. When too much sun exposure produces dangerous free radicals in your skin, carotenoid antioxidants can counteract them on the spot.
This powerful compound, found in grapes, peanuts, wine, and grape juice, helps stop tumors from forming.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers suspect that fish rich in omega-3s protect your skin against damage from inflammation, especially the kind caused by the sun. Enjoy oily fish like salmon, herring, sardines, or trout every week.
Green or black tea. The polyphenols in green tea, especially, may help your skin wield an arsenal of weapons against the sun damage that triggers skin cancer. A study from Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire found that people who drank two or more cups of green or black tea a day for at least a month cut their risk of two types of skin cancer — squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma — by 20 to 30 percent.
- FC&A Staff Writer