Year-Round Sun Exposure Explained
New York, NY (September 22, 2011) — Summer may be over, but sun protection shouldn’t end when the leaves begin to turn. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with the sun, which emits cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation year-round.
“It’s not just the sunburns that usually occur during the summer or on vacation that are associated with skin cancer,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. “All of your lifetime sun exposure adds to your risk of skin cancer.”
Intense, Intermittent Sun Exposure
Intense, intermittent sun exposure is a pattern of periodic concentrated UV exposure that severely damages the skin. It often causes sunburn, and may lead to melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. For example, you might receive intense sun exposure during a tropical vacation after spending many months indoors; or on an October day spent outdoors, raking leaves or at a football game.
One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence (or a total of five sunburns sustained by any age) more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life. Approximately 70,230 melanomas will be diagnosed this year in the United States, with nearly 8,790 resulting in death.
Intense, intermittent sun exposure also plays a part in basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the U.S.
Incidental Sun Exposure
This is the kind of sun exposure that you are barely aware of, which accumulates over the years from relatively brief everyday activities. For example, individuals are exposed to the sun when walking dogs, waiting for the bus, or walking to and from the car. Everyday incidental exposure adds up and can seriously damage the skin over time.
Cumulative, incidental sun exposure is linked to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common skin cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths.
Incidental sun exposure also contributes to basal cell carcinoma. Almost all basal cell carcinomas occur on parts of the body subject to chronic sun exposure — especially the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone develop a year-round sun protection regimen to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam.
About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit www.SkinCancer.org.