We're rushing headlong into summer, so it's probably a good time to talk about protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays.
Cases of skin cancer have increased hugely over the past century. Less than 100 years ago, only 1 in 10,000 people developed skin cancer. Now, that ratio has jumped to 1 in 93, making skin cancer the most common cancer affecting Americans today.
On average, young women have a higher probability of developing the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, than they have of developing any other type of cancer, like breast cancer. In fact, in the past 40 years, the incidences of melanoma in young women has increased by 800 percent.
In spite of increased awareness about skin cancer and the serious damage it can cause, new cases continue to crop up. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, of the most common cancers in the US, skin cancer is the only one whose incidence continues to grow.
Protecting yourself from the sun's damaging rays is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. To safeguard your skin, consider the following steps:
- Always wear sunscreen. Obviously, you don't need to slather on SPF 50 waterproof sport sunscreen every day of the year, but you should always be wearing some form of sun protection. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, whether at the beach or in the yard, wear a dedicated sunblock. Otherwise, invest in a moisturizer that contains SPF. And don' be fooled by a cloudy day. The sun's rays can still burn you through cloud cover. UV rays also reflect off of water, sand, and snow, so be sure to protect yourself.
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies! There's literally no end to the benefits of a healthy diet. Sunburns damage skin cells, and that damage releases free radicals into your system, causing all kinds of health problems, cancer among them. The antioxidants found in many fruits and veggies help fight off the free radicals created by sun damage. Remember, the darker the fruit or veggie, the higher the antioxidant concentration.
- Alabaster is in. The shelves at your local bookstore are overflowing with titles about vampires. Take a complexion cue from Stephanie Meyer's characters and stay out of the sun. And avoiding a vitamin D deficiency isn't a good excuse for soaking up the sun or hitting the tanning bed. You only need about 10 minutes in the sun to get the RDV of vitamin D. Better yet, get it from your diet!
- Do self-exams. Much like breast cancer, early detection is the key to catching skin cancer before it's too late. If you have any moles or beauty marks, keep an eye on them to see if they change over time. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs that a mole has turned malignant, and seek out a dermatologist if you notice anything worrying. Use this ABCDE Detection Chart, also used by skincancer.org, that can help you identify the warning signs of Melanoma.