Now that we’re out of winter and heading into Austin’s endless summer, it’s a good time to think about preventing sun exposure and the consequences it can have for your skin. In Texas, our skin is often facing the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Those rays aren’t simply causing your skin to age more quickly, but they’re also adding up over time to increase your risk various types of skin cancer.
UVA vs. UVB?
We’ve all seen the labels on sunscreens. “Broad based.” “UVB blocking.” “SPF 100+” Initially, the thinking was that only UVB rays were dangerous, as those are the rays that affect the epidermis. But now we know that UVA rays are doing their damage from below. They penetrate into the dermis, the skin’s second layer, causing skin aging and the beginnings of melanoma and other skin cancers. So, you need to look for sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays.
How much SPF is needed?
Most dermatologists say that SPF 30 is all you need, as most claims beyond that aren’t doing much of anything to protect you more. Those SPFs that claim 50 and higher are probably just setting you up to pay more.
If you get skin cancer you die.
Not true. Most skin cancers, if detected early enough, are treatable. That’s why yearly visits with your dermatologist are necessary, so she can spot the pre-cancerous spots before they progress.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer
This is true. In the U.S. over one million people each year are diagnosed with skin cancer. Many remain undiagnosed.
Sunscreen prevents skin cancer
No, sunscreen helps block the rays than lead to skin cancer, but just because you have on sunscreen doesn’t mean you can spend every waking minute in the sun without repercussions. Sun damage is cumulative.
If you have lots of moles, you have a higher risk of melanoma
This is generally true. People with a large number of moles, especially large ones, have a higher risk of melanoma and need close surveillance.