While skin cancer has always been more prevalent with old age, each year more and more frighteningly young people are being diagnosed. Between lower ozone levels in our earth’s atmosphere, the invention of tanning beds, and our culture’s craze to attain that “sun-kissed-glow,” ultraviolet rays are penetrating our skin to the point of damaging DNA and mutilating skin cells. According to the National Cancer Center, nearly 77,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2013.
Between soaking up the sweet Los Angeles sunshine during the school year and lifeguarding in Chicago during the summer months…my skin gets more than enough vitamin D. Each summer growing up I had always looked forward to attaining that “golden glow;” laying out for hours and hours and not thinking much of a sun burn here and there. I had always been proud of the fact that I’ve never used a tanning bed; however, I now understand I need to be just as cautious with my skin outdoors. This summer I’ve been especially careful to slather myself in sunscreen before heading out to work, the beach, or even going for a run outside.
If you are coming from a seasonal state like Illinois and are not familiar with 365 days of sunshine… here are some additional tips I’ve been following that you might find useful throughout your year!!!
- wear polarized sunglasses as often as possible. And no, big shades are not just for style and steeze (eyeballs can burn too!)
- use a hat or visor…The hairline is one of the most cancer-prone areas since the sun is constantly hitting the top of our foreheads and it’s easy to skip over this area when smearing around the sunscreen.
- Try and avoid getting too much sun between 10AM-4PM when the sun is highest in the sky and its rays are most powerful.
- Stay away from tanning salons!!!! (nothing wrong with being pale)
- Use water-resistant sunscreen when engaging in outdoors activity, reapplying every 2 hours…I am obsessed with my Hawaiian Tropic “shimmer effect” sunscreen so my skin sparkles when I step out into natural light. Sounds cheesy I know, but once my skin looses it’s shimmer I know its time to reapply (:
Why Skin Cancer Has Become More Prevalent:
The ozone layer is located in the earth’s stratosphere and serves as a natural protective barrier from the sun. While UV-A rays still pass through, ozone (a compound made up of three oxygen atoms) absorbs UV-B rays and blocks them from hitting the earth. Strong compounds like chlorofluorocarbons, freons, halons, and refrigerants react with these UV rays and release individual chlorine and bromine atoms. These atoms then react and break down ozone. These reactions go on to spark a chain reaction which has caused a thinning in the ozone layer and the “hole” over the Antarctic region. This thinning has left us subject to deeper penetration and more exposure to UV rays. Since the Montreal protocol of 1996, however, countries all over the world have banned the use of products containing CFC’s and other damaging chemicals found in industrial cleaning tools, refrigerators, and aerosol spray cans. So while we are slowly restoring some of the lost ozone to our atmosphere, we must continue to be extra careful under the sun!
The Science Behind Sunscreen:
The sun emits three types of radiation. UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays. UV-A is the longest wavelength of the three and penetrates most deeply into the skin. It is not absorbed by the ozone layer. UV-B rays are only partially blocked by the ozone layer and are responsible for causing sunburn. UV-C rays are the least problematic to humans as they are usually completely blocked by the earth’s atmosphere. Sunscreen contains active mixtures of organic and inorganic compounds that reflect these UV-A and UV-B rays. Usually inorganic compounds like zinc and titanium oxide are responsible for reflecting and scattering these rays while the organic molecules absorb excess rays and releases it as heat.
There is tons of science involved in the mysteries of skin cancer and a lot of fascinating research taking place every day. All you outta-towners don’t let the “golden state of mind” get in the way of protecting your skin. If your naturally pale like me…own it!!
A fellow Trojan and I rocking our stunna shades just trying to stay cool (:
my lovely assortment of lotions!!