Avoiding Sun Damage During the Pandemic
Even before the coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted, many people were escaping the confinements of home by heading outdoors alone or with family members. Now that more outside venues are opening, more of us will be spending even more time outdoors, possibly putting our skin at risk of sun damage, including skin cancer.
Therefore, our board-certified dermatologists at Genesis Dermatology would like to remind you about the best ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
First, some statistics
- Cancer of the skin is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
- Nearly five million people are treated for skin cancer every year in the United States.
- It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of fair-skinned people who reach age 65 will develop at least one skin cancer, but those with darker skin are also susceptible.
- The most preventable cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 71,943 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, and 9,394 people died from the disease.
- In a 2013 survey, the CDC found that fewer than 15 percent of men and about 30 percent of women use sunscreen on their face and other exposed areas when outdoors.
More good reasons to screen
Many people tend to minimize the danger of skin cancer, thinking it won’t happen to them (odds are it will, if you don’t protect your skin). But they may be more motivated to cover up when they learn that research has proven that unprotected skin ages faster than skin that has been consistently sheltered from UV rays.
For instance, one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 903 people 55 and younger to gauge the effects of daily vs. intermittent sunscreen use. After four years, researchers found that those who applied a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher every day after showering and every few hours when in the sun showed 24 percent less skin aging than the control group.
“It has been a source of frustration for us that for some sections of the community, the sun-safe message does not seem to be getting through,” lead researcher Dr. Adele Green, told USA Today. “We now know that protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen has the added bonus of keeping you looking young.” Green is a professor at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Here’s another good reason to wear sunscreen: preventing mask muzzle. If you’re considerate of others when you are around them, you will be wearing a mask to prevent the inadvertent transmission of the novel coronavirus in case you’re an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carrier. (According to the CDC, 35 percent of those infected fall into this category, and wearing a mask is the best way we currently have to prevent spread of the virus to others.)
If you’re out in the sun, however, and you’re not wearing sunscreen, you could end up developing a whiter “muzzle” around your nose and mouth, similar to the way skiers who wear goggles develop “raccoon eyes.”
Cover up indoors, too
Even though many coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, surveys show that up to 75 percent of Americans are still wary of venturing out in large crowds, and continue to restrict activities outside the home.
And while you may be safe from COVID-19 at home, you’re not safe from the sun’s UV rays even indoors. The risk is especially high for those who sit close to windows or in a room with lots of sunlight.
Standard glass windows block UVB but not UVA rays, which can penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB [rays], [and] are the main contributing factor to photo-aging, which are changes seen as dark spots, wrinkles, and leathery textured skin.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects, or mutations, that can lead to cancer (as well as premature aging). These rays can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancers.”
So, if you value your skin, cover up, whether indoors or out. And be sure to let us know if you have any questions about the best ways to protect your skin throughout your life or have any questions about any type of physical sunblock we have at Genesis Dermatology.