Most people know sun exposure is a primary risk factor for skin cancer, and many have heard sunblock is one of the best defenses to prevent sun damage. But knowing something and acting on it are two different things.
There are three key ways to prevent sun exposure when you're outside: use sunblock, clothe yourself in sun-protective garb or stay in the shade. National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 69 percent of U.S. adults practice at least one of these sun-protective measures on a regular basis. While 74 percent of women fell in this category, 64 percent of men did.
Turn knowledge into action
It's easy to forget to apply sunblock every day -- as the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends. Here are a few tips to help you protect it:
• If you always forget, add sunblock to another daily morning routine, such as when you brush your teeth. Creating an association between the two activities might help you remember to apply sunblock.
• If you like being tan, try sunless tanning. The look of spray tans has improved significantly in recent years and it's not just for women.
• If you don't like how sunblock feels, try various formulas and invest in sun-protective gear. Hats, shirts and other clothing items are now made with their own sun protection factors (SPFs) or ultraviolet protection factors (UPFs).
The ABCs of SPF
A broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 offers twice as much protection as SPF 15 -- true or false? The answer is false.
The SPF number relates to how long it takes your skin to burn. If you burn after 10 minutes in the sun without protection, wearing SPF 15 sunblock will prolong the time it takes to burn by 15 times -- around two-and-a-half hours.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tests show SPF 15 blocks out 93 percent of ultraviolet B rays (the UV rays that cause sunburn), while SPF 30 blocks out 97 percent and SPF 50 blocks out 98 percent. The Food and Drug Administration states that SPFs greater than 50 may not offer any additional protection, despite the higher number.
Even though SPF is a time-based measurement, using a higher-SPF sunblock does not mean you should reapply it less frequently.
Signs and symptoms of skin cancer
According to the CDC, most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps, and can damage skin cells.
A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal or a change in a mole. But not all skin cancers look the same. For melanoma, specifically, the CDC recommends a simple way to remember the warning signs by remembering the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:
• Asymmetrical -- Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
• Border -- Is the border irregular or jagged?
• Color -- Is the color uneven?
• Diameter -- Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
• Evolving -- Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, a change in an old-growth or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.
The physicians at Surgical Associates of Siloam Springs provide surgical services for skin cancers and more. Visit NW-Physicians.com today to learn more or to schedule an appointment with a physician.
About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital
Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a licensed 73-bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services, and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 50 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.