Let the Sun Shine In

Well, cosmologically speaking, we are still in the Dawn of the Age of Aquarius – (being an “age” is about 2,160 years).  Sun’s out, guns out.  Perhaps it should be more aptly be named the Age of Cancer.

The CDC Skin Cancer Trends state that from 2002 to 2011 skin cancer among men increased by 1.5% per year and 1.1% per year among women.  Mortality from melanoma increased by 0.7% in men ( data not available for women).

In 2010, according to the CDC Sun-Protective Behavior Rates, 70% of adults said they usually or always practice on of the three sun protective behaviors (sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, or seek shade).  Women outperform men and those 25 years or older outperform those 18-25 years old.  Only about 13% and 7% of teen girls and boys, respectively use an effective sunscreen when they were outside for more than an hour on a sunny day in 2013.  About 1/3 of teens aged 14-17 had a sunburn in the past year.

When UV rays reach the inner layer of skin more melanin is produced that moves to the outer layers and becomes visible as a tan – this indicates injury to the skin, not health.

Risk factors associated with the development of skin cancer include

  • A lighter natural skin color
  • Family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Exposure to the sun through work or play
  • A history of sunburns, ESPECIALLY EARLY IN LIFE
  • A history of indoor tanning
  • Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blond or red hair
  • Certain types and a large number of moles

The six skin types, based on how they tan / burn:

  1. Always burns, never tans, sensitive to UV exposure
  2. Burns easily, tans minimally
  • Burns moderately, tans gradually to a light brown
  1. Burns minimally, always tans well to a moderately brown
  2. Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark
  3. Never burns, deeply pigmented, least sensitive

Types I and II are at the highest risk.  I put myself at a IV.5.

The CDC seeks to dispel the myth that a “Base Tan” is a good thing in the Burning Truth initiative. It also states that tanning beds injure thousands of people each badly enough to go to a hospital and creates risk for aging of the skin and melanoma.

To reduce the risk of skin cancer:

  • Stay in the shade – not to be confused with throwing shade
  • Wear clothing that covers the arms and legs
  • Wear a hat!
  • Wear sunglasses – hipster and safe
  • Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 with both UVA and UVB protection– that graduation speech
  • Avoid indoor tanning

In 2012, the FDA established regulations for the labeling of sunscreens – as described by FDA scientist Raynold Tan (no kidding!!).

  • A labeling maximum SPF value of “50+” Those with an SPF 2-14 can only claim to prevent sunburn not aging or skin cancer
  • “Broad Spectrum” means it protects from both UVA and UVB
  • Those that are both broad spectrum and SPF of 15 or greater can claim a reduced risk of skin cancer and early aging.
  • Two water resistant claim periods of 40 and 80 minutes will be allowed but “waterproof” and “sweat proof” will not.
  • Labelling as “instant protection” and protection for greater than two hours will not be allowed without proof to the FDA – read here reapply every two hours.

Finally, is the “Sun Safety for America’s Youth” toolkit available from the CDC.

Protect yourselves this summer and let love steer the stars.