In the United States, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. An estimated 2 million people are diagnosed each year, one in every 150 Americans. Increasingly, young adults are putting themselves at risk.
Sunburn is both a predictor and a cause of skin cancer. Like tans, it represents damage to skin cells caused by UV rays. UV radiation from tanning beds is as damaging as from the sun, and the World Health Organization has classified them as a carcinogen. Even a single bad burn can double your risk of melanoma, and it may not strike until years later.
In a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all adults between 18 and 29 said they’d had a bad sunburn in the preceding 12 months. In the previous survey, five years earlier, only 45 percent reported burning, an all-time low. Another report showed that six percent of adults had used tanning beds or other indoor tanning equipment. There seems to be no indication of why young adults are burning more frequently, particularly since the study also found a rise in the number of people who use sunblock. Experts think they’re not using enough sunblock or are failing to reapply it.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you should look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. The foundation recommends an initial coat of sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun, then reapplying every two hours regardless of SPF rating, more often if you’re perspiring or getting wet.
Most people don’t use enough sunscreen. For optimum protection, you need about an ounce, but many people use less, sometimes as little as a quarter of that amount. You need sunscreen if you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time outdoors, even if you’re not going to be going to the park or the beach or anything like that, and even on cloudy days—40 percent of the sun’s UV output reaches the earth even through a total cloud cover.
Summer is a time for outdoor fun, and you don’t need to miss out on that to avoid burns and skin cancer. By picking the right sunscreen, putting on enough, and reapplying, you can stay protected without having to hide indoors.