Some people still neglect basic precautions such as using sunscreen after getting skin cancer, a new study has found. And this could have massive repercussions.
Researchers analyzed survey results from around 760 adults with skin cancer history as well as over 34,000 people without the same malignancies. Past skin cancer turned out not to be linked to lower odds of sunburn, according to study lead author and Johns Hopkins professor Alexander Fischer.
“We were surprised to see that. This population is already at high risk for developing a subsequent skin cancer,” he said via email.
Only 54 percent of those with a previous skin cancer diagnosis wore sunscreen – an improvement from the 33 percent among people without the same history, but one that leaves a lot of people still damaged by sun exposure.
In the United States, one in five will develop the disease, with one dying from melanoma, which is the most dangerous kind, every hour, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
These make it very important to choose and use sunscreen carefully.
Choose Your Weapon
AAD suggests that in order to protect the skin from sunburn, early aging and skin cancer, everyone should use sunscreen offering broad-spectrum protection, or against both UVA and UVB rays. The product’s Sun Protection Factor or SPF should be 30 or higher, and it should be water-resistant.
UVA rays are called “aging rays” as they can prematurely age skin and cause wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays or “burning rays” are the primary culprit behind sunburn. The former can pass through window glass while the latter is blocked by it.
Sunscreen should be worn outdoors, where the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. It may be surprising that even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of its UV rays can also penetrate the skin.
How about spray-on sunscreens? Even the Food and Drug Administration is unsure of their safety and whether or not inhaling them poses risks.
Dr. Elizabeth Hale, dermatologist and Skin Cancer Foundation senior VP, recommends using creams and lotions but says sprays can be quite useful when one is on the go and lacks time for full reapplication.
“I tend to think it’s better than nothing,” she said in a New York Times report, advising applying spray-on sunscreen indoors in a well-ventilated location and never directly on one’s face.
How To Use Sunscreen
Here are basics in using sunscreen for sun protection:
Reapply properly. Experts urge using enough sun lotion to fill a shot glass — about an ounce — when at the beach. Adjust the amount depending on your body size. Even if the product is waterproof, reapply after swimming and sweating, or every two hours when not having fun in the water.
Think about spots you’re likely to forget. Hale said that both men and women are prone to missing the tops of their ears as well as the tops of their feet. Males are also likely to miss the scalp and the back of the neck, while females tend to forget their chest and neck areas.
Use technology. Since you’re taking your smartphone to the beach, depend on it to remind when it’s time to reapply. Go for free or inexpensive Android or iOS apps for alerts. Wearables like jewel-like device JUNE track sun exposure and syncs with an app to inform you how fast you are consuming your recommended sun allowance every day.
Do it for vanity, too. Many dermatologists consider sunscreen a leading anti-aging ingredient, with those using it regularly shown to have notably smoother, more resilient skin.
Follow natural tips. Seek shade when necessary (the sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and wear protective clothing. Use added caution near water, sand, and snow, as these materials reflect the sun’s damaging rays and increase the chances of sunburn.
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik | Flickr