Sun protection – to avoid melanoma & skin cancer

Curious Chloride’s Sun Protection Guide Part 1.

Read the first part of our sun protection guide about how you can enjoy the sunshine safely. 

In this article, you will learn why and when you should be careful about spending too much time in the sun.

Content:

UVB Protection

There are two ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths that we need to be careful about, long-wave UVA rays and short-wave UVB rays.

So UVB first. The UVB rays affect the outer layer of the skin and are the main contributor to sunburns and skin turning red. And this is something most of us know well; too much sun (UVB rays) can cause painful sunburns.

The immediate reaction of too much sun is easy to recognize as harmful when the skin turns red, basically turning itself into a red warning light.

For whatever excuse, sometimes the UVB rays get the best of us and we turn into red-faced lobsters. If you recognized yourself in this, you can rest assured that you are not alone. Nine million Brits get sunburned every single time they go on vacation, according to a poll presented by the Daily Mail.

“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

The intensity of UVB is different all year around and at different times of the day. They are at their strongest roughly between April to October (in North America & Europe) and between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And the experts advise that if possible it is best to avoid direct sun exposure during that part of the year and those hours. And if it is summer and you don’t know what time it is (if that is possible nowadays), use WHO’s shadow rule,

“Watch your shadow – short shadow, seek shade!”  

UVA protection

And now we are at UVA rays. What is not widely known is that UVA rays have almost the same intensity all year around.  And UVA rays can also penetrate clouds and glass, so if you are working by a sunny window you might run the risk of getting too much sun exposure. So because of this, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you protect yourself from UV radiation, both indoors and outside, all year around.

The layers of the skin.

Long-term effects of UV radiation

The long-term effects of both UVA and UVB rays are more abstract because the negative effects are often invisible while they occur.

UVA rays affect the deeper layers of the skin and causes, over time, wrinkling and aging of the skin. But what is more serious, both UVA and UVB plays important roles in the development of skin cancers as well as causing eye damage (such as cataracts), according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

There are different types of skin cancer and although melanoma is not the most common type, melanoma is the most dangerous one. The Skin Cancer Foundation writes that melanomas can look very similar to moles and that some even develop from moles.

The key is to always pay attention to new moles or existing moles changing because if melanoma is found and treated early, it is in most cases curable. What is considered the most effective way of skin cancer treatment is to do a microscopically controlled surgery called “Mohs surgery”.

If you are worried about any mole that you have, melanoma symptoms, or melanoma cancer – go see a doctor. If you want to check your moles yourself or want to learn about cancerous moles – go to the Skin Cancer Foundation and scroll down to the  “ABCDE Warning Signs of Melanoma”

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most common form of skin cancer is called Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCC is caused by a combination of accumulated and intense, occasional sun exposure. 

“More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. In fact, BCC is the most frequently occurring form of all cancers. More than one out of every three new cancers is a skin cancer, and the vast majority are BCCs.”

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority also confirms this. It is the intense and occasional sun exposure that is behind the increase of BCC cases. They have found, what sounds contradictory at first, that people from a relatively high socioeconomic status, with little exposure to the sun during working hours, have the highest risks of developing BCC.

People with little sun exposure during work have the highest risks of getting basal cell cancer (BCC).

What this finding strongly suggests, is that sun exposure occurs during free time – off work hours. In other words; short periods of the intense sun to (often) pale skin, skin that otherwise is protected by being indoors or by clothing, is the cause of the most cases of skin cancers.

According to the statistics, you are nowadays at a lower risk of getting skin cancer if you are working outside. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority firmly urges that sunbathing during leisure time and on trips abroad (where often the ozone layer also is thinner) needs to be improved if skin cancers cases are to decrease.

Couple enjoying the Parisian sun.

Couple enjoying the Parisian sun. 

Skin cancer, melanoma and sun protection

We now know more than ever about the negative effects of too much UV radiation, yet the cases of skin cancer have increasingly accelerated over the last ten years. This is because of skin cancers, like all cancers, usually develops over a long time. Even during decades.

Berlin dermatologist Yael Adler explains in her book ‘Haut Nah’,

“The skin cancers we are fighting today are in many cases the consequences of our carefree tanning in the past, with a delay of 20 to 30 years.”

But that is not the whole explanation, experts in the area are also blaming our sun-seeking behavior, which we seem to have difficulties laying off. We simply enjoy being in the sun and getting our tan on, both for our well being and for aesthetic reasons, both on sunny days and in tanning beds.

“Most still feel more beautiful and healthier when they are tan, and some may even call it a status symbol”, Dr. Yael Adler again.